After having suffered a heavy defeat last week against Havant, Alton Silverbacks welcomed back a few names to bolster their squad – but fell short against Trojans in Eastleigh.
With neither team having won in Hampshire One this season, both were looking for a morale-boosting victory to kick-start their season.
And it was Trojans who took their chances, leaving Alton to rue some missed opportunities.
Alton looked pumped up before kick-off to restore some pride after last week’s 101-3 mauling by Havant II, and they managed to do so for large parts of this game – but handling errors cost them dearly in a scrappy encounter.
Straight from the kick-off, Alton knocked on and this was to be a glimpse of what was to come as both sides struggled to find flowing rugby.
But with Tom Smethurst and Leo Gardner providing some bulk in the pack, Alton immediately won a scrum against the head and competed well in the set piece for most of the game.
Trojans suffered the setback of a serious foot injury after only three minutes and neither side threatened for the first 12 minutes, but it was Trojans who were asking most of the questions.
A brave tackle from Dan Farr was rewarded as Trojans were penalised after Gardner got himself in a fine jackal position to stop the latest of a series of attacks, but Alton could not find any territory or sustained possession.
Defence appeared solid but after 15 minutes, a rolling maul off the back of a Trojans 22-metre lineout gathered an unstoppable momentum and Trojans took the lead.
With the different, but complementary, styles of Oli Fielder and Cameron Hamer as the two centres, and Joe Gwyther marshalling the backs, openings were created but not taken as passes went forward or were knocked forward. Dan Androuliakos at left wing cut a frustrated figure as two chances went begging but Alton were gradually rallying despite conceding a further three points for going off their feet at another ruck.
The set piece for Trojans was constantly under pressure, and Alton finally entered the hosts red zone when their openside flanker was sinbinned for deliberately stopping a quick tap penalty after a further Trojans scrum indiscretion.
But the five-metre lineout came to nothing as Powell became isolated – and that was to be the same story a few moments later as Hamer stole the ball in midfield but did not have the support around him.
Alton started the second half brightly and pinned Trojans back into their own 22 with a superb 50:22 kick by Gwyther who then found Hamer and then Michael Robson – and although the chance was spurned, the Trojans defence was creaking.
Trojans tried to immediately collapse a maul after another five-metre lineout, but the Alton pack stood firm, regained their momentum and Farr darted off the back of the maul to score from close range after 55 minutes to make it 10-5.
However, that was to be the highlight of the second half for Alton as Trojans regained some composure and they re-established their lead with a well-worked try after swinging the ball left and right in their first meaningful attack of the second half.
It was not perhaps surprising that some of the Alton players looked a little ring rusty and tired after having not played for some time and the gaps eventually opened in the final ten minutes as Trojans grew in confidence, appeared quicker to every ball, and eventually scored two further tries to extend their lead to 29-5.
The Hampshire 1 Counties league is now definitely taking the shape of two distinct halves with the local sides of Petersfield, Basingstoke and Alton struggling against some stiff opposition who have been playing at a higher level in recent seasons.
Alton now will look to the next two games to pick up their first points against these local rivals who both suffered heavy defeats this week.