Such an outcome was not obvious during the first ten minutes. From the kick off by Petersfield it was Alton who dominated the early exchanges, particularly their powerful pack who secured possession from both lineout and scrum to win territory in the Petersfield half. After 8 minutes, the pressure told and Alton drove over for a try from a lineout close to the line, with Casper Hird taking a nasty looking injury to the ear in his valiant attempt to stem the Alton tide.
From the restart it was Alton again who made the running and their backs ran in a try under the posts, which was duly converted. In the early stages of the season, the team would have wilted under such pressure, but following their moral boosting victory in the quarter final and perhaps because they were playing in front of a large and supportive crowd on the 1st XV pitch, they came back into the game and started to believe in themselves. From a penalty on the half way line, Field took the simple approach and ran the ball through the hands to Nick Blumlein who ran in unopposed to touch down under the posts. Blumlein calmly slotted the conversion.
Petersfield still had some defending to do as they conceded territory and a fine tackle by Zach Guyer put paid to another Alton move only 15 metres out from the Petersfield line. Gradually the forwards started to assert themselves and secure more possession for the home team backs, aided by Alton giving away penalties. From such a penalty deep within their own half, Field again had the confidence to run it through the hands before releasing Isaac Tarling down the wing from the half way line. He still had some work to do and fended off a series of tackles before touching down. Blumlein duly converted to make it 14-12 after 20 minutes.
Alton came back and Field had some defending to do before the break with Felix Hall putting in a telling tackle, but another scorching run by Tarling out of defence, and a perfectly weighted pass released Blumlein to score his second try of the half to which he then added the extra points. Alton came back again and after a series of mauls rolling into Petersfield territory, bulldozed their way over the line to make the score 21 – 17 at the break.
At the start of the second half, it was the home team that took the initiative with Adam Haldenby making a half break and then supported by the forwards, and in particular Sam Myer, to gain hard yards. By drawing in the Alton forwards, this released Blumlein for another surging run to the try line for his hat trick.
Petersfield were now gaining in confidence and as the second half progressed, their ability to substitute their twelve players started to tell on the opposition who had no substitutes to fall back on. Increasingly the home team forwards started to play their part in open play with both Daniel Woodward
and Jacob Eaves making surging runs. As the opposition backs became committed, Blumlein noted the large open spaces behind and a huge punt downfield followed by a strong chase and ripping of the ball from the lone Alton defender allowed him to go over for his fourth try. Two minutes later he tried to repeat the feat, and was only thwarted by the bounce of the ball to allow the Alton defence to recover.
Alton came back again and some stoic defending by Mikey O’Kelly and Jacob Eves
in particular kept them at bay. They continued to give away penalties and thus the initiative, and Field took advantage by again working it through hands to Blumlein to power over in the corner.
Alton were not done yet and from a scrum deep in Petersfield territory, Alton ran in a try which they failed to convert. More pressure from Alton following the restart meant that Petersfield had to defend their lines and the commitment to the cause was epitomised by Felix Hall as he made another spectacular tackle by putting down their flying centre only yards from the Petersfield line with seconds to go.
This was an excellent team win and one that would not have been achieved at the start of the season. The squad are now building a belief in themselves and a confidence to play running rugby. They now look forward to their appearance at the Final at the end of April to finish the season with.
Team: Blumlein, Devlin, Eves, Haldenby, Tarling, Banks, Woodward, Clarke, Thompson, O’Kelly, Hammond, Hall, Hird, Myer, Guyer, Moore, Francis, Rainbow.
Report By: Pete Hall