Alton 20 Eastleigh 44: Eastleigh’s powerful running game was ultimately too much for Alton Silverbacks as they came from behind to win at Anstey Park.
Ultimately it was a convincing win for Eastleigh but for the first 60 minutes it was an even encounter.
Alton fielded several young players and there was a noticeable height and weight difference in the backs, but to their great credit their brave performances more than made up for their lack of stature.
The signs looked ominous early on for Alton as a break in midfield eventually led to Eastleigh opening the scoring off the back of a rolling maul after only five minutes.
Alton responded well and controlled most of the territory and possession in the first 20 minutes as Eastleigh failed to clear their lines.
Joe Gwyther forced and then converted a penalty after 13 minutes and then kicked deep into Eastleigh territory as the home side continued to dictate the pattern of the game.
Eastleigh appeared to have stopped the rolling maul after the five-metre line out, but Alton’s forwards surged once more, and Luke Parratt broke off the back and took his chance superbly to give Alton a deserved lead. Gwyther converted and Alton were 10-5 up after 20 minutes.
After some great defence, the compact and lively figure of Rollo Harrap eased the pressure with a run out from under his own posts and Eastleigh were soon retreating once more.
Harrap looked lively whenever he touched the ball and in defence too, he never took a step back.
A crashing run from the sizeable Eastleigh centre was slowed by Harrap who was nearly half his size, but just as he looked for his opportunity to release the ball, Harrap regained his feet and gamely tackled him to the ground.
However, as the half drew to a close, Eastleigh were now finding more opportunities and they levelled the score after 38 minutes in the corner.
Several Alton offsides quickly resulted in another penalty and the referee now warned the home side for repeated infringements.
Eastleigh’s kicking game was inconsistent, and they missed the penalty and then immediately transgressed in front of their own posts. Gwyther coolly slotted the kick and Alton led 13-10.
With Nick Stoffel and Adam Hall in the front row, Alton’s scrum was now dominating as they started the second half brightly.
Harry Devonshire nearly scored in the corner, but Eastleigh were penalised once more as their defence became increasingly stretched.
Unsurprisingly, Alton elected to take the scrum and rumbled over from five metres, with Ben Burrage touching down to extend the lead that Gwyther converted with aplomb as they led 20-10.
Alton’s scrum was penalised for not driving straight as they again dominated the Eastleigh pack and the visitors took quick advantage as they carved a gaping hole through the centre to score under the posts.
And this was now to be the pattern of the match, as the Alton defence was gallant and brave but increasingly under pressure from all angles.
An Eastleigh try resulted in Gwyther being sinbinned as the match became more fractious and the 14 men of Alton now had no match for the Eastleigh onslaught who ran in three further tries in the closing stages.
It was a deserved result in the end for Eastleigh, although the score seemed harsh on Alton. Given that Eastleigh have won 11 of their 13 matches this season, this was a creditable performance from the whole Alton squad.
This weekend Alton face another tough task as they travel to Winchester who currently sit third in Hampshire 1.