Alton run out of steam against Warlingham

Saturday 5th March 2022 5:00 pm
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Action from Alton’s match against Petersfield earlier this season. Picture by Lofty Callow
(Photo by Lofty Callow. Single use only for Farnham Herald, Haslemere Herald, Alton Herald, Bordon Herald, Liphook Herald )

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HIGH-FLYING Warlingham proved too strong for Alton Silverbacks on a bright and breezy day at Anstey Park.

For long periods the Silverbacks held their opponents close until Warlingham exerted their authority in the final 20 minutes to run out 34-8 winners.

It was a result that was a touch flattering based on the first 60 minutes, and left Alton in ninth place in London 3 South West and facing three important games against sides in the lower half of the league.

That includes the rearranged fixture at Basingstoke that was postponed last weekend because of a waterlogged pitch.

Warlingham had soundly beaten Alton 29-0 in the reverse fixture and playing down the slope, the signs were ominous in the first few minutes as they moved the ball left and right and created an overload to score their first try after two minutes.

‘The Mighty Warl’ looked physically bigger in most positions, but Nick Stoffel and Luke Bottomley as props stood strong and the Alton scrum was effective throughout.

But field position belonged to Warlingham in the early stages as Alton struggled to get out of their own half.

Tom Smethurst also was disrupting the Warlingham line out and the set plays allowed Alton to gradually gain some territory, and after their opponents were penalised for an offside penalty, Cameron Hamer coolly slotted the penalty from 35 metres.

Almost immediately Warlingham scored again as their fly-half weaved through the heart of the Alton defence and the try was converted to extend the lead to 12-3.

Hamer’s trickery, ably supported by the rambunctious Oli Fielder and the impressive Lew New joining the line from full back, started to test the opposition’s flanks and Gwyther kicked to within five metres.

Eventually a penalty resulted, but after Hamer pushed the ball just left, he almost immediately made up with a scything run down the left and again Warlingham were penalised, this time for a high tackle.

Alton were now camped inside the Warlingham red zone and stole a scrum against the head. Karter Whittock challenged the line once more and the visitors repeatedly transgressed to test the referee’s patience.

After another kick to the corner by Gwyther, the lineout was collected superbly, backs joined the rolling maul and Luke Harriss touched down for a deserved try.

The rolling maul has been Alton’s nemesis this season, and at 12-8 down with a few minutes left in the half, the signs were looking promising.

Maybe buoyed by the confidence from that score, Alton chose to run the ball from the kick-off and were penalised at the breakdown and Warlingham scored the final penalty of the first period.

Trailing 15-8 at half-time but with a dominant scrum, Alton’s faithful could approach the second half with some optimism.

But Warlingham started briskly, New relieving pressure after a deep kick into the in-goal area. As Warlingham looked to recycle the ball left, Gwyther intercepted with aplomb and ran deep into the visitors’ half. However, they failed to capitalise – but only after a Warlingham knock on.

A sustained period of pressure followed as Alton asked serious questions of the Warlingham defence. But they were able to answer them all and eventually Alton ran out of ideas, culminating with Gwyther’ s drop goal attempt that was blown well wide by the increasing crosswind.

A score at that time would have levelled and Alton were duly punished as Warlingham kicked deep and eventually strode over with a powerful running game to increase their lead to 22-8.

That was a knockout blow and Warlingham went on to run away with the game, scoring two further well-worked tries in the final ten minutes and eventually winning 34-8.

Report by Gary Brench

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