Silverbacks stifled as Field seize initiative

Friday 31st January 2020 7:00 am
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There was no quarter asked and none given when Alton and Petersfield clashed at Anstey Park last Saturday

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Alton 5pts, Petersfield 25pts

PETERSFIELD made the short trip to Alton on Saturday and secured a well-deserved victory against their title rivals in front of a large crowd at Anstey Park.

With Alton starting the game just three points behind Field but with a game in hand, this game was likely to be decisive for both sides.

Field perhaps surprisingly decided to kick up the slope in the first half, taking the game to Alton from the first whistle. They immediately gained a penalty advantage after the first of many offsides for both sides that was duly converted after just two minutes.

A couple of Field indiscretions saw Alton mount their first attacks and Cameron Hamer kicked to the corner where Field carried the ball over their own line. From the resulting scrum, Brendan Sumner was stopped just five metres out but Alton failed to capitalise after a loose pass and Field hacked upfield.

Field had a slight edge in the scrum and the lineouts were competitive, but the visitors had real dominance in the rolling maul and after 13 minutes they kicked well to the corner.

Alton appeared to have an opportunity to relieve the pressure but the resulting kick was well charged down. Both teams seemed to stop as the ball appeared to be destined for touch, but the spinning ball stayed infield and the Field scrum half was the only player switched on to the resulting events. He fly-hacked the ball forward over the line and Alton dragged him back as he closed in to touch the ball down. Whether he reached the ball before it touched the end goal line is debatable, but the referee was in no doubt and awarded Field a penalty try and a 10-0 lead.

This moment and the next 15 minutes were to prove pivotal in the game as Alton mounted a series of assaults on the Field line. They had several five-metre scrums and lineouts but Field’s defence was immense, stopping every attack through power in the forwards but also high pressure on the backs line. Alton didn’t have that cutting edge or pace to find a gap, and every error or misjudged pass was greeted with delight by the increasingly confident Field team and supporters.

Field took advantage, by closing the half in Alton territory and scoring again in the corner after two impressive drives from their forward pack after 35 minutes. The scoreline looked a little unfair on Alton, but Field’s defensive display was proving decisive, and they had taken their chances well and led 15-0 at half-time.

With Field kicking down the slope now, it was going to be a difficult second half for the Silverbacks and Field started the game with their tails up. Another Field maul was adjudged to be pulled down and Field extended their lead after a well-taken drop goal in midfield.

Choosing to kick rather than run up the Anstey slope, Hamer took the game back to the Field five-metre line with a well-taken kick to the corner, and Tom Smethurst reduced the deficit from the resulting line out, putting his side on the board at 18-5 after 48 minutes.

But if a remarkable comeback was even a flickering thought in the Alton team, that light was duly extinguished just four minutes later as again Alton had no match for the Field rolling maul and Nick Stoffell was awarded a yellow card for collapsing. Field used the extra advantage well and had three players out wide as they crossed the line again for their third try in the corner which was superbly converted.

Hamer nearly broke through midfield, Sumner was pulled down by a last-gasp defensive effort as Alton grew increasingly desperate as the clocked ticked down. Stoffell joined the fray again, but Alton failed to capitalise on a couple of chances and perhaps with calmer heads would have taken different options on occasion.

Field were given a yellow card for failing to retreat with Ed Thomas trying to take a quick penalty after 68 minutes, but the Field defensive line was not to be breached again as they halted every Alton attack despite their lack of numbers.

Alton never took a step back but the first-half penalty try always had them chasing the game and they lacked the power and the pace of their performance when they beat Field at Penns Place earlier in the season. They stopped Field from securing a bonus-point try but Field have now extended their lead to seven points, with Alton still having a game in hand on their rivals.

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