News from the 1st-XV
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Wednesday, 26th October 2016
Andover 37 Old Tonbridgians 34
In a breath-taking encounter of end to end rugby, Andover finally fell the right side of a tight finish, to record a much needed five-point home win last weekend.
Although never behind after the first three minutes, Andover were also never in control, but at last kept their nerve at the death, to win with a last-gasp Charlie Waite penalty.
There was a heavy cost to Andover though, as Ollie Lindridge was carried off with what turned out to be a broken ankle early in the second half and he now joins Billy Pollard on the long-term injury list.
Andover were buoyed by the return of hooker Tom Waite for his seasonal debut after a knee operation and Jake Kane, Ben Fulton and Niko Rowe in midfield, as they faced a side, much improved from when they last met in the lower division two season ago.
Indeed, on that occasion Andover ran riot, but it was obvious from the first kick, that this was a much different OT’s side and that both teams have developed well since that meeting.
Indeed, the quality of rugby on show was at times scintillating from both teams and shows just how competitive this league has now become.
Playing up the slope and against the breeze Andover began badly conceding a penalty and three points from the first play.
They soon signalled their intent however and after just three minutes, great work from Rowe, Tom Erskine and Kieran Jenvey put Stefan Long in for an excellent try.
Charlie Waite missed the difficult conversion, but soon added a further three points from a penalty as Andover seemed to take control.
Ten minutes later after constant pressure, Andover struck again in real style.
Long counter attacked powerfully from deep and from a ruck, the ball was neatly flicked on by Erskine for Rowe to provide Charlie Waite with a lovely scoring pass.
The young full back finished well and added an excellent conversion as Andover seemed to stretch away.
OT’s had other ideas however and when a lapse in defence gave them an opportunity they took full advantage to narrow the gap to just five points.
Andover responded well from the blow and after a few minutes, good work from lock Luke Lissner put Kane in space and he needed no second bidding to skip over for a lovely try converted by Charlie Waite.
OT’s finished the half strongly and Andover should have heeded the warning, but there followed two minutes of madness after the break that almost undid all the hard work.
From a penalty Andover had a threatening lineout in the OT’s twenty-two, but an inexplicable mix up, followed by poor defending saw the visitors go the length of the pitch to score.
OT’s sniffed a chance and soon repeated the dose as more poor Andover defending allowed them to draw level with another well taken try.
Andover were stung and when Lindridge went down after a lineout, things looked even more bleak for the home team.
Youngster Ben Cicotti replaced Lindridge however and along with replacement prop Nic Reed provided more mobility in the loose as Andover recovered some poise.
As Andover pressed, OT’s went down to fourteen with a yellow card and Jenvey soon took advantage with a neatly taken score.
With fifteen to go Andover finally looked to have put the game to bed with an outstanding second try from half way by Kane, owing much to his sevens skills, converted by Charlie Waite, but OT’s once again would not lay down.
As Andover themselves went down to fourteen, they roared back with two tries to level things, but just as they looked to be in the ascendency brilliant defence from Simon Preece and Cicotti stifled them and Andover cleared.
With the final whistle in sight Andover mustered one last effort and after superb carries from Tom Waite and Rowe, the ball flashed wide to Erskine who looked to have finished neatly in the corner.
The drama was still not done for the tortured Andover faithful however, as the excellent referee Donald Swart judged the final pass forward before signalling that OT’s had been offside in defence.
The crowd held its breath, Charlie Waite held his nerve and that was that.
Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite said ‘I’m not sure my heart can take much more of this.’
‘It was a fantastic game for the neutral and the lads showed real character but we really do need to focus more on our game plan at crucial times in the game.’
‘We cannot afford against these very good sides to relax when we go in front and let them back in and it’s a repetitive theme.’
‘We are getting there though and I though Aaron Hatcher in particular really showed he has matured at this level.’