Alton vs Portsmouth, Saturday 4th March 2023, Counties 1 Hampshire

Alton vs Portsmouth, Saturday 4th March 2023, Counties 1 Hampshire

Match report by Jim Dixon

Alton 21 – 24 Portsmouth

With two last minute late changes to the original selection, Aaron Beesley and Greg Jansen, Portsmouth moved Ollie Simpson from No.6 to No.8 and Lee Chandler came on to the bench in place of Jansen.  Max Clarke was moved from the second row to No.6 and Bryn Rainford moved off the bench to No.5. Ben Gordon came onto the bench.  

Portsmouth were hoping to carry on from last week’s success but the game never really sparked into life.  Whether it was the sloping pitch or some other factor was not clear but this proved to be a rather fractious affair throughout the game.   Alton got the match underway and  a Portsmouth knock-on gave Alton a penalty kick resulting in a 5 metre line-out.  A catch and drive by Alton was thwarted by Portsmouth as they defended well.  Alton kept the pressure on them for quite a while but Portsmouth managed to keep them out.  Portsmouth then managed to get their hands on the ball and took play into the opposition half but just could not get that final scoring pass away.  Eventually Alton got the ball back and set up a good attack which saw their left winger cross wide out. The conversion missed and the took a 5 – 0 lead.  This was followed shortly after by a good catch and drive by Portsmouth from a line-out and they crossed for a try by Max Clarke. Simon Morgan was on target and they now held a narrow 5- 7 lead,  A penalty against Portsmouth saw Alton re-take the lead 8-7.  Shortly after this Portsmouth were reduced to 14 when full back Tim Rollett was yellow carded for a deliberate slap down of the ball. From the resultant line-out Portsmouth managed to steal the ball and cleared play into the Alton half.  Alton gathered the kick but the defender was not quick enough and he was tackled by two Portsmouth players who were up very speedily.  Another penalty against Alton saw Morgan kick for touch.  This was followed by another penalty against Alton and Morgan’s kick gave them a 5 metre line-out.  Ollie Simpson held the ball at the back of the maul and crossed for a try which Morgan converted giving them a 8-14 lead.  This was short-lived however when Alton hit back with a well taken try as their player ran through the defence to score their second try. The conversion was good and the score now stood at 15-14.  Tim Rollett then came back on so they were now back to a full compliment.  More problems for Portsmouth followed shortly after when winger Josh Howell-Williams made good ground before being tackled which resulted in a serious injury to his ankle.  He had to be taken from the pitch and was subsequently taken to Hospital with a suspected broken ankle.  Lee Chandler came on and he went to No.13 with Sam Olie moving from there to the wing.   The half time whistle went with Alton holding a slender 15-14 lead.

Portsmouth got the second half underway and Alton were quickly onto the attack, threatening the Portsmouth try line, but a brilliant interception by Chandler saw Portsmouth take play into the Alton 22.  A good driving maul by Portsmouth came to nothing when they were penalised for a neck roll.  This was followed by another penalty against Portsmouth in front of their own posts  which saw Alton take the 3 points on offer with the score now 18-14.  Undaunted Portsmouth were soon back on the attack and some good handling saw the ball moved across the field and back again to the supporting Ollie Simpson who crashed through for his second score,  The conversion missed and the score was now 18-19.  Finn Parry was then replaced by Joby Walsh.  Another penalty to Alton saw them increase the lead to 21-19.  Portsmouth’s scrum half Tom Sanderson had been having another good game and he made a blind side break of 15-20 metres before he was finally caught but at least he took play away from the try line.  Brad Atkins was then replaced by Ben Gordon at hooker.  Another penalty against Alton saw Portsmouth gain a 5 metre line-out and following a clean take they set up another catch and drive which saw them cross for their 4th bonus point try score by Ollie Simpson, his 3rd of the day.  The conversion missed but they now held a slender 21-24 lead.   More good work from the Portsmouth scrum half saw him harass his opposite number into a knock-on.  Portsmouth were now putting more pressure on their opponents as the game became more fractious with a bit of a scuffle breaking out in  which Portsmouth were awarded a penalty but this was reversed by the referee as he took exception to comments being banded about.  The final whistle went following an Alton move which saw the final pass go into touch and Portsmouth deserved winners 21-24.  It is quite a while since they have recorded back to back bonus point wins and their celebrations were richly deserved.  This was a rather scrappy game with Portsmouth unable to really stamp a hold as they had last week.  Although Ollie Simpson had a good game with 3 tries he was  pipped to Man of the Match by Tom Sanderson who showed great speed throughout the match with his all round contribution that  just sees him gets on with his job. 

This win sees Portsmouth stay in on 39 points, Bournemouth 2nds. are 8th. on 34 points.  Other results form Saturdays fixtures are Havant 2nds. 118-5 against Basingstoke, Gosport & Fareham losing to Andover 22-32, Bournemouth 2nds losing to Trojans 33-29. 

Next week Portsmouth are away to Basingstoke and we underestimate them at our peril as we know from previous seasons!!.