News from the 1st-XV
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Saturday, 9th September 2017
Farnham 31 Andover 33
Having survived in London South West two in the final game of last season, Andover travelled to newly promoted Farnham to begin this campaign in confident mood and came away with a pulsating win on the road.
The Oakwood sponsored ‘All Blacks’ slogged it out with the hosts in their fine new stadium and in front of a large noisy crowd, who were to be stunned into silence at the final whistle as Andover took the spoils.
Farnham were promoted having dominated the division below and clearly had targeted this game as one they should win.
But Andover too are on a winning streak, as they improved significantly in the second half of last season and it was that dogged form that eventually saw them through.
Both sides fielded a mix of youth and experience with Andover having three eighteen-year olds and a seventeen year old in their squad, but they more than coped with Fin Waite in his first ever senior game at hooker and Alex Arter making his league debut at flanker, both doing very well up front.
In the backs fellow academy graduates Ioan Gwynne Davies and Josh Middleton also shone and when Gwynne Davies went over for an early score after superb work from Niko Rowe, Andover seemed set fair.
From the restart however, a poor error gifted the home side an equalising effort and the battle was on.
Soon after Andover added a penalty through Rich Retallick to add to his conversion, but once again Andover erred almost immediately and Farnham went over.
With their tails up the home side took full advantage and a further try looked to put them in control.
But the signs Andover were breaking them down were starting to show and behind a powerful scrum and increasingly effective lineout Andover came storming back.
For the rest of the half it was all Andover and two Retallick penalties and a monster effort from Charlie Waite sent them in to the break all square at 19-19.
After the break Andover felt aggrieved when a scrum penalty against gave Farnham the chance to retake the lead with a neat try, but they held their nerve and continued to press.
Kieran Jenvey began to pull the strings at half back and with Tom Erskine and James Monck winning the physical battles, Andover took control.
After a period of pressure Simon Preece dived over for a try converted by Retallick and soon after Billy Pollard had what looked like a good effort disallowed.
Undaunted Andover pressed again and from a powerful scrum the referee awarded a penalty try to give Andover a vital nine-point lead.
With time running out Farnham went for broke and after the impressive Jack Stott was yellow carded, Andover defended for their lives.
They took vital time off the clock before the home side managed to crash over but with four minutes still to go it was in the balance.
Andover kept their discipline however, as the home side offended in their desperation and after two penalties, skipper Alex Hibidge happily booted the ball in to touch to spark the Andover celebrations.
Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite said ‘This was a fantastic game that had everything and both sides were a credit to this level of rugby, as was the referee who really let the game flow.’
‘I thought we showed we have matured well in our time in this league though especially in our decision making, as we closed out well in a game we would probably have lost a year ago.’
‘I must pay tribute to our youngsters and the many people in our academy who bring the lads up from the age of six. Seventeen of our squad of eighteen today have come out of the academy over the past ten years and that’s why we continue to grow and develop at this level.’