Back in action – but Alton edged out

Wednesday 26th January 2022 12:00 pm

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Alton Silverbacks 7 Old Georgians: HAVING not played rugby for more than a month because of Covid-related issues, Alton Silverbacks went into this match with some notable absences and others playing in unfamiliar positions.

Unlike the free-flowing rugby played in the reverse fixture in London 3 South West, this was an attritional affair with every metre of ground fiercely defended by both teams.

This was compounded by numerous stoppages at the breakdown which resulted in a game where both teams failed to find any rhythm.

Defence was the order of the day, with both teams spending long periods in the opposition’s red-zone but rarely finding clear opportunities to break the line.

Georgians started the brighter, stealing an early Alton lineout and they were soon camped down inside Alton territory. Lewis New, starting at fly-half, seemed to set the tone for the game with a big hit early on.

However, Alton could not clear their lines, and as they moved the home defence from side to side, Georgians created an overload and touched down in the right corner to lead after just five minutes.

Ben Burrage, normally a forward, showed his versatility by playing as a winger and created an opening out wide and kicked through deep into Georgians territory, and the visitors conceded a resulting penalty – but New missed an opportunity to reduce the deficit.

The Georgians’ pack controlled the scrum and they also showed some ingenuity in the lineout and as a consequence Alton were not able to maintain any sustained possession.

Even playing up the Anstey slope, Georgians controlled the game and spent the last 15 minutes of the half deep inside Alton territory.

A New kick was charged down but the ball rebounded to safety, but Georgians could not find an opening and it was great credit to the home defensive effort that they somehow managed to get to half-time trailing only 5-0.

It was now Alton’s turn to lay siege on the visitors’ line. Ed Thomas, at full back, not for the first time was solid under any high ball clearance and returned a couple with interest.

Georgians were warned for conceding a few penalties in short succession as the pressure mounted, but the set piece was their pressure release valve.

They mounted a rare attack of their own midway through the second half, but Matt Pengilley gathered a deft Georgians kick that had the home defence scrambling and Alton were soon on the attack once more.

It seemed at this point, that one moment of class or guile from either team could be the deciding factor.

The Georgians’ imposing centre was replaced because of injury and the visitors looked less assured without his presence.

Burrage jinked through the lines, but New was brought down. Caleb Wolfreys and Tom Smethurst were also stopped just short, but Alton were getting quick ball finally off the ruck.

As George Pantrey found Luke Bottomley, it almost seemed the front row forward could not believe the space that was available to him and he was unstoppable from te metres with only eight minutes remaining.

With a New conversion, Alton were now leading 7-5 and it was much deserved based on their second-half performance.

Immediately, though, Alton transgressed from the kick off and then through ill discipline were marched back by ten metres by the referee. It made the penalty a little easier, and the Georgians’ replacement scrum half struck the ball sweetly as his side regained the lead.

To the despair of the visitors’ coaching team, Georgians were penalised as they tried to run the ball out from their own 22-metre line with just minutes remaining and Alton had one final opportunity to seal the game.

However New, who had kicked the ball well out of hand all game, unfortunately pushed the kick to the left of the posts and it was Georgians who took the spoils.

Alton had the consolation of a losing bonus point.

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