Petersfield 40 Alton 10: After having played some of their best rugby last week in a narrow defeat against Basingstoke, the Silverbacks arrived with a little optimism to this bottom-of-the-table clash at Penns Place against their local rivals Petersfield.
Both teams are struggling this season because of injuries and players leaving, and they look far different outfits to the teams who were competing at the top of the Hampshire Premier in 2020.
For once, though, Alton turned up with 18 players and a strong pack. However, things began to unravel even before kick off as the prop Nick Stoffel was unsteady on his feet and unable to start the game.
This was a big loss for the visitors and coupled with other injuries later in the match turned out to be a pivotal moment.
Field started briskly, stripped a ball in midfield and their impressive fly half ran in virtually unopposed from halfway after just six minutes.
Alton’s first foray into the Field 22 was not capitalised upon, with the home side winning the lineout and fine interchange down the left wing saw them double their lead after just 12 minutes.
Alton were struggling to get to grips with the Field backs and they looked dangerous whenever they kept the ball in hand.
Alton had the more mobile forwards against the bulky Field pack and scrums were constantly under pressure but in the lineout Alton held the dominance. Just as they appeared to be establishing some possession in the game, Alton tried to run the ball out from deep within their territory and Field regained possession to score again after 20 minutes.
Alton rallied impressively for the remainder of the half. Ed Thomas took a quick penalty and was brought down within seven metres as Field lost their discipline.
Firstly they were penalised for pushing, and the resulting rolling maul off the back of the five-metre lineout was joined by the backs as Alton reduced the arrears with a try from Aidan Tretheway in the corner that was well converted by Joe Gwyther.
Field had no match for Ben Burrage in the lineout as Alton launched wave after wave of attack. Karter Whittock was stopped just short after peeling off the back of another maul and as the home defence creaked, they drove in from the side and their fly half was sinbinned after 33 minutes
Ryan Bale took a thunderous hit and badly hurt his shoulder and was unable to continue – and with the absence of Stoffel, Alton could no longer contest the scrums. As a result, under new laws, they would now have to forfeit a player for the rest of the game.
This law may work in professional rugby, but it seems harsh on rugby at this level where small squads often do not allow the luxury of two back-up recognised front rows.
Gwyther kicked a penalty just before the half-time whistle, though, and closed the gap to 21-10 – and had he done so again three minutes into the second half, Alton would have been right back in the game.
However the ball was short, the chase was disjointed and Field found width against the narrow Alton defence to run in their fourth bonus point try. Instead of 21-13, it was now 28-10 and it was a decisive score.
Field extended their lead shortly after as Alton were again caught narrow in defence and the Field wingers took their chances well.
Alton became increasingly desperate and a wide kick was not regathered as Field increased the lead to 40-10.
Further injuries were to follow as Luke Harriss and Ed Simmons collided, with Harriss taking a significant impact to his head resulting in the coach’s decision to substitute him for the eager Lewis Buckley for the rest of the match.
Events had conspired against Alton and in the final few moments they were reduced to 13 players as their frustration boiled over.
But Alton’s spirit in adversity can never be doubted and they will need all that today (Saturday) when they welcome the undefeated league leaders Jersey to Anstey Park.