Alton RFC U9s enjoy success at the Under 9 Hampshire Cup
By Kirsty Barttelot
Ben Thirlwall & Shaun Stevens
Alton RFC sent two teams to the Under 9 Hampshire Cup, with both sides enjoying a successful day at Petersfield.
Playing in a strong Pool 1, Alton started well against Fordingbridge, with Liam Smith, Toby Arrowsmith and Oscar Thirlwall all crossing for tries to get the boys off to a good start in winning 4-3. New Milton, who are always strong, followed and a thrilling game ended 3-3, with Liam Smith racing in for all 3 Alton tries and the pair of Alex Levey and Jake Lloyd getting through huge amounts of work to keep New Milton out at the end. A strong win over Andover followed (5-2) with Zac D’Arcy chalking up a hat-trick and Zach Hayward running almost the length of the pitch for the try of the game. In the final group match, Havant raced into a 3-0 half time lead but, in scenes reminiscent of Scotland at Twickenham the day before, Alton refused to be beaten and clawed their way back into the game. James Greenman and Rory White made several strong runs, Harry Gray stopped a certain fourth Havant and then in quick succession Zach Hayward claimed the first score and finally Oscar Thirlwall danced over for two fine late tries to tie a thrilling final group match, leaving Havant stunned and Alton still unbeaten.
Over in Pool 4, Alton’s other side – playing as the “Black Barbarians” – started with a tough fixture against Tadley. Despite some excellent attacking play from Finley Cole and robust tackling from De Villiers Naude, Tadley’s size and pace took them to a 6-3 win. A test of bouncebackability followed against Ellingham & Ringwood, and this was passed with flying colours as Henry Barttelot and Toby Bingham cut loose and Max Elton led the defensive charge to secure a superb 5-4 success. The remaining three group games were against a very physical Farnborough side, our Petersfield hosts and the evergreen islands from Vectis. Despite rampaging attacking play by James Manning – ably supported by Sam Wey, Cameron White and Arthur Kefford – a stuttering start to each game left the boys playing catch-up, and on each occasion they just ran out of time before getting their noses in front.
Calculators were required as the group stage results were collated. Alton topped Pool 1 by virtue of conceding 1 less try than New Milton and were rewarded with a final against a strong Winchester side. An end-to-end game Alton found themselves 2-4 down with 2 minutes to play. In the final minute, Liam Smith and then Oscar Thirlwall scored in quick succession for the boys to finish the day unbeaten. With time up, the bragging rights for Under 9 county champions were shared with Winchester after a game played perfectly in line with the game’s TREDS values, where all 20 boys put on a fantastic display for watching parents and coaches alike.
The day finished with a superbly contested play-off match for the Black Barbarians against Fareham Heathens. With the Alton team and a full complement of parents & team-mates on the sidelines roaring them on, the Baa-Baas came flying out of the traps with every single player contributing to some lovely scores and spells of dogged defending. The game was secured through two lightning scores by Tom Stevens to secure a 5-2 win.
Player of the tournament awards, voted by the watching parents, went to Liam Smith (who scored 7 of his sides 15 tries) and Sam Wey (Barbarians) for some brilliant defending. The other awards, voted by the coaches were as follows: Endeavour - Jake Lloyd for his tireless efforts in both attack and defence, Hulk (tackler of the day) - James Manning and finally Player of the Week - Henry Barttelot for his stunning long range try, great support play and a superbly improved tackling performance.