Fractious derby day as Alton run Petersfield close
From the first minute to the last it was Alton that were more enigmatic with the ball and posed far bigger danger than their hosts in open play, but Field eked out their points through a rolling maul and power up front to seal a 34-26 win in front of a partisan crowd at Penns Place.
Straight from the kick-off, Alton showed their intention as Cameron Hamer tore through the heart of the Field defence who conceded an early penalty for offside in front of their posts. Quick thinking from Alton saw Dan Androuliakos score from close range in the first minute.
On five minutes, Alton secured a good line out midway inside their own half, and after quick passing in midfield, George Lucas was cut loose on the left wing and rounded the floundering Field defence to score from halfway to make it 14-0 to the away side.
Petersfield were looking shell shocked. As Field sought to establish some territory and possession, they were given a helping hand as veteran Andy Tart was sin-binned and Field took full advantage as their maul crashed over the line.
Playing into a stiff headwind, Field kept the ball in the pack and were soon deep inside Alton territory once more.
Alton had an opportunity to clear but chose to run the ball from near their own line, Field regained possession and once more the visitors’ 14-men could not halt the forward drive.
Back to a full complement, and with Ryan Bale joining the pack after an early injury, Alton started to ask more questions of the shaky Field right-sided defence. Androuliakos combined well with Ben Burrage who straightened the line but stopped just short and the ball was returned to Androuliakos who stretched over to restore a seven-point margin after 25 minutes.
However it was Field who finished the half strongly, firstly through the forward pack again and then a cross field kick did not go to hand but the left winger stuck out a foot and either fortuitously or brilliantly – depending on your allegiance – it sat up perfectly for Field to take the lead for the first time in the match and gain a scoring bonus point. Petersfield led 22-19 at half time.
Now playing against the wind, Field put Alton under immediate pressure, scoring in the right-hand corner after a pass seemed to have drifted forward.
But undeterred, and with Gwyther and Hamer pulling the strings, Alton looked the team most likely and the sprightly backs ran the Field defence ragged at times.
Desperate defence from Field plus a high tackle on George Pantrey resulted in a sin bin but Alton could not find a path through.
Eventually the pressure told though, as the ball was flung wide and with backs against Field forwards, Karter Whittock gleefully scored and a perfectly judged Gwyther conversion reduced the deficit to just one point with 25 minutes remaining.
The Field second row was sin binned presumably for bringing down an Alton maul, but strangely Alton were not awarded a penalty and instead the game was restarted with a Field scrum under their posts. The pack had good reason to look incredulous.
The game was now wide open with Alton running the ball at every opportunity, but Field hung in and gradually gained some much-needed territory and possession.
Tempers were sizzling throughout in this game and eventually, they completely boiled over with players from both sides involved in off the ball incidents that were mostly pushing and jostling.
With a few minutes remaining, Field scored their final try, even as some players were squaring up to each other in midfield and that was the catalyst for both teams to lose their control in a huge brawl.
It was a shame for the match to end like this as really the last ten minutes descended into a niggly and chaotic battle which ended with a flurry of sanctions against both teams.
Report by Gary Brench
Photos by Lofty Callow
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