Alton Silverbacks 69 Petersfield 7: Alton Silverbacks cruised to a dominant Counties 1 Hampshire victory over their local rivals at Anstey Park.

As clashes between these two sides go, they are normally a little feisty and can be tight affairs. However, Alton produced a stirring performance in a one-sided encounter and Field were soundly beaten long before they lost their composure with two red cards in the second half.

A large crowd welcomed both teams on a dry, still day perfect for running rugby and Alton did not disappoint as they produced a scintillating rugby performance that will live long in the memory for the whole squad and the home faithful.

Luke Parratt and Leo Gardner bolstered the pack that had played so well last week against Basingstoke and Alton were quickly on the front foot, using the slope to their advantage.

After the solid front row of James Rayner, Nick Stoffel and Parratt forced an early penalty at the scrum, Joe Gwyther found Ben Burrage and Alton were ahead after only six minutes.

Both Burrage and Karter Whittock were again dominant in the lineout as Field were already struggling with the intensity of Alton’s play in the opening stages.

A hefty hit on Rollo Harrap after he had clearly stopped running, as he knew he was in touch, produced the game’s first flashpoint but Alton kept a cool temperament.

A quick tap penalty by George Pantrey produced a rolling maul and he was forced over the line by Gardner and co after 20 minutes to go 12-0 ahead.

Dan Androuliakos weaved his way through the porous Field defence and when he was brought down on the 22, the ball was quickly recycled and Gwyther simply released Ed Thomas for his opening try in the right corner. Gwyther’s fine conversion extended the lead to 19-0 after 27 minutes.

The penalties were now racking up against Field and they started to chase the game, running the ball from very deep positions but did not have the pace to puncture Alton’s solid defence. Conversely Alton had the likes of Oli Fielder whose incisive running normally sucked in two or three defenders.

Another knock on by Field provided an opportunity at a scrum. Whittock pounced on the ball and Gwyther, Lewis New and then Androuliakos released Harrap for the bonus-point try. Field felt aggrieved that the ball had come out the side of the scrum and they were now getting increasingly frustrated.

Field established a foothold in Alton’s territory for the last few moments of the first half, but when they knocked on from a crash ball move, some of the Field players seemed to stop and the Alton backs seized on the opportunity.

Ed Thomas’ blistering pace and perfectly-timed pass let Androuliakos in to give Alton a deserved 33-0 lead at half time.

Early in the second half, a high kick by Gwyther was well collected by the Field wing but he only raised his hand and did not call the mark and was tackled in the in-goal area.

After Field backchat to the official appealing against the decision, Pantrey’s quick thinking from the penalty released Al George who was unstoppable from ten metres.

Alton failed to secure the kick-off and after conceding penalties near their own line, Field launched one of the few attacks and scythed through to score what was to be their only try of the game.

If Alton were disappointed to concede that score, they certainly did not show it. Gwyther and New combined well at halfway with some clever interplay, with eventually Gwyther judging his kick perfectly for Ed Thomas to score in the right corner.

As Field were penalised on their own 22, Burrage looked to collect the ball from the Field player whose temper finally boiled over, and he received his marching orders.

Spaces were opening up now with increasing regularity, and with the half-backs of Pantrey and Gwyther Alton had the players to take advantage.

Another intelligent kick from Gwyther saw Ed Thomas dive over after 59 minutes for his hat-trick try.

Pantrey’s box kicking over the onrushing defence was a feature and this time Burrage collected well down the left and he ran in from 25 metres to score his second.

Another quickly-taken penalty by Pantrey again found Burrage who dummied to the outside and strode through the Field defence largely untouched for his hat-trick try.

Even with 14 men and injuries, Field did mount a creditable late challenge on the Alton line in the last ten minutes, but the hosts’ defensive stand with some great counter rucking and immense hits, notably from Stoffel and Fielder, rocked the Field players back in the tackle and there was no let-up in Alton’s aggression.

Gwyther’s kick to halfway was chased by Harrap but he was judged to have deliberately knocked the ball forward and was sin-binned for his efforts.

An off-the-ball incident involving Burrage resulted in further trouble for a Field forward with a yellow card for retaliation, but further backchat compounded the offence and another red card was awarded.

Alton appeared to have scored the try of the match with Harry Devonshire capping off a fluid move down the right, but the Alton player acting as touch judge saw a foot in touch and it was disallowed.

There was still time for one more try as the threadbare Field defence was this time pierced by Ed Thomas for his fourth try to put the seal on an incredible display.

Alton’s second XV also produced a memorable victory with a last-minute try to record a 24-19 win over Petersfield II on the adjacent pitch.

Report by Gary Brench

Photos by Alison Hamer