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Home > News > Alton 27 - Fareham Heathens 6
Your News Alton 27 - Fareham Heathens 6

Bart van Herwijen enjoyed a memorable day as Alton beat basement club Fareham Heathens in Saturday's crucial relegation encounter at a sun-drenched Anstey Park.

The 18-year-old became the youngest 1st XV captain in living memory - and possibly in Anstey Park history - and he celebrated by scoring two tries and a setting up a third to secure a victory that all but secures Alton's Hampshire One survival. By contrast, Fareham Heathens now need a miracle if they are to avoid the drop.

With four games remaining, Alton enjoy a four-point cushion over Farnborough, who occupy the second relegation spot.

Crucially, Alton have a massively superior points difference and Farnborough will effectively have to win three of the last four games to have any chance of staying up. The teams meet on 29 March.

van Herwijen's contribution, substantial as it was, should not detract from an effervescent performance from Alton's young bucks that was a little while in coming but was worth the wait when it did.

Once again, it was the powerhouse Alton pack and the performances of their ever-growing band of teenagers that really caught the eye.

If the Herwijen was the obvious man of the match, Alton's absurdly youthful front-row of John Happel (19), Luke Parratt (24) and James Gay (22) should at least receive a gong for best supporting cast. The trio were devastatingly good.

Their comparative lack of height proved to be a hugely influential factor because they drove so low at their opposite numbers that the Heathens front-row repeatedly buckled under the pressure.

Consequently, the Alton front five devastated Heathens in the scrummage, while another teenager, Matt Arundel, plundered freely at the line-outs. The visitors' forward eight just never secured enough ball to compete on an equal basis with their hosts.

Steven Ott and Niall Allardyce exchanged penalties early on, and though Ott nudged Alton ahead with his second three-pointer on the quarter-hour, the first try did not arrive until the 31st minute.

Ott's weighted pass released van Herwijen into a gap 30 yards out and his pace seemed certain to take him all the way, but Allardyce's cover tackle denied him. Instead, van Herwijen popped to Kieran Collins, who ambled over from close range.

It was 13-3 at the break, but Neal Haworth's' splendidly-struck 30-yard drop-goal narrowed the deficit shortly after half-time. However, Heathens were crumbling in the set-pieces and Alton's dominance began to take its toll.

The home side's second try came when replacement centre Stephen Johns' cross-kick found wing Phil White lurking on the left; White somehow managed to flip the ball infield to van Herwijen, who dribbled the ball adroitly before gathering and scoring. Ott converted and Alton had a near-unassailable 20-6 lead.

Johns was also the instigator of Alton's third, icing-on-the-cake, try. He took a short pass from Ott and ploughed headlong into two Heathens defenders, before slipping a beautifully-weighted off-load to van Herwijen on the burst. The skipper made no mistake, neither did the boot of Ott.

There was more: audacious in the extreme, Ott and Johns linked once again to free van Herwijen in the shadow of their own try-line, but the speedy centre was thwarted by Heathens' wing James Garner's tackle and chance went begging.

* Alton take a break from league action this weekend. They face runaway league-leaders Ellingham & Ringwood at Picket's Post on 1 March. The unbeaten Es need just a point to ensure promotion to the London leagues.

Alton: Forsyth; White, Van Herwijen (c), Ott, Wills; Collins (Johns 48), Jones-Rogers (Grace 55); Happel, Parratt (c), Gay; Osborne, Hayward; Jenkins, Arundel, MacDonell (Oliphant 52).

Tries: Collins (30), van Herwijen (55, 67);

Conversions: Ott (3);

Penalties: Ott (2).

Fareham Heathens: Allardyce; Garner, Algar, Rugman, Strudwick, Haworth, Charlson; Rugman; Wye; Mitchell; Wheaton, Hulett; Monk, Reynolds,

Brown. Reps. Illingworth, Fairchild, White.

Pen: Allardyce;

Drop-Goal: Haworth.

* Haslemere II edged out Alton III 20-10 in a lively friendly at Woolmer Hill.

The home side dominated the opening period and led 13-3 early in the second half. Prop David Gwyther's try from a rolling maul hauled Alton back into contention, but 'Mere scored a late breakaway to secure victory.

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