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Saturday, 11th March 2017

Andover 25 Twickenham 31

In a pulsating encounter that swung one way then the other, Oakwood sponsored Andover ran high flying Twickenham very close, before having to settle for two very valuable bonus points at Foxcotte Park last weekend.

So tight is the relegation battle in London South West two, that even in defeat, a late try from man of the match James Monck, may yet prove crucial to Andover’s survival.

In truth, Andover will rue a couple of errors that gifted Twickenham points as they twice gave up a lead, but they will also take heart from a much improved performance and with just three matches to go they are still in there fighting. 

Twickenham are on course for a third place finish this season and with loftier ambition going forwards, they arrived with a strong side determined to repeat the hiding they gave Andover in the corresponding fixture before Christmas. 

They found an Andover side that has developed well since then however, that has learnt to accept the absence of big name players and adopt a more simple, direct game plan that has started to bare fruit.

Utilising their powerful set piece Andover turned the screw from the start.

Rich Retallick, who put in a mature performance all game out of position at stand off, opened the scoring with a scrum penalty.

Andover enjoyed good possession and field position and after ten minutes of constant pressure Twickenham gave way again. 

The Andover pack drove relentlessly from a five metre scrum and Kieran Jenvey touched down to score.

Twickenham regrouped and attacked Andover hard, but great defence from Harry Foxwell, Charlie Waite and Ben Fulton kept them at bay.

As they continued to press it all went wrong for Andover as Jenvey was yellow carded and Twickenham took advantage of the extra man to score.  

Andover held out well and Jenvey was back on the field, but then disaster struck.

From a backs move, Twickenham moved the ball wide and as Andover knocked on trying to intercept, the referee decided the act was deliberate and awarded a penalty try to give the visitors the lead. 

Undaunted Andover stormed back and once again went through the phases.

Simon Preece, Nic Reed and skipper Alex Hibidge carried hard and with Ollie Lindridge starting to win the lineout battle, Andover suddenly threatened again.

Exciting youngster Ioan Gwynne Davies broke superbly running from his own twenty two deep into the Twickenham red zone.

From the resultant ruck Luke Linssner picked and went for the line and just as he looked to be held up, young flanker Fin Waite drove him over for a lovely try. Retallick converted and Andover had the lead.

After the break as predicted, Twickenham came at Andover hard.

Under intense pressure Andover’s decision making let them down and Twickenham took advantage to score and retake the lead.

The see saw nature of the game continued and on the hour Charlie Waite’s superb touch kick gave Andover a lineout five metres out. 

Lindridge rose superbly, Fin Waite drove and from the ruck, Jenvey sent the impressive Tom Erskine over for the score.

It was looking good for Andover, but then came the moment that cost them the game.

Andover switched off and from an innocuous attack, the visiting hooker ran through four tackles to score a decisive try.

Andover looked crestfallen and Twickenham sensed the kill. They pressed again and just two minutes later added another try that seemed to have settled the matter.

Andover were having none of it however and stormed back up the field.

Despite the situation, Andover kept the ball patiently and after a series of drives the outstanding Monck picked up and drove over for what turned out to be a double bonus point try.

Still not finished Andover went for what would have been a winning score and right at the death, desperate Twickenham defence kept Josh Gibbs and Foxwell at bay before the visitors gratefully ended the game.

Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite joked ‘I’m not sure my old ticker can take much more of this.’

‘That was a fantastic game for the neutral, but for us although a little frustrating we didn’t get the win, it was a real battling performance.’

‘I cannot praise enough, the effort of lads who have stepped up from the seconds, thirds and colts in recent weeks. With their sheer will and commitment, they have lifted the other players spirits and you can see through the performance of the likes of James Monck, Nic Reed and Tom Erskine what a difference it has made to them.’

Andover now have a break before visiting bottom club Warlingham in two weeks’ time.

‘If we can get the maximum there and beat KCS at home the following week, it could still yet go to the final game and if it does, who knows’ said Waite


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