News from the 1st-XV
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Saturday, 13th January 2018
Andover 26 Old Tonbridgians 32
There was late drama last Saturday at the Goodship ground, as Oakwood sponsored Andover staged a comeback to snatch a lifeline in this London south west two encounter, thanks to the most unlikely of heroes.
With Andover kicker Harrison Pape off injured and no one else to kick, young flanker Finlay Waite, stepped up and struck two conversions, to give Andover a vital extra bonus point, having never kicked in a senior game before.
Andover and OT’s always produce close affairs and this one was no different, but for long periods it looked like Andover, low on confidence, were going to succumb to another heavy beating.
Andover were again forced into many changes and the situation worsened as injury took a further toll in this one.
Alongside Pape, centre Evan Roll and Billy Pollard also went off injured, leaving Andover with several players out of position and a back line containing five teenagers, but it was almost as if this adversity spurred them to greater heights.
The game began well for Andover attacking up the slope with Nic Reed and Jack Potter both making early inroads and OT’s looking vulnerable in defence.
After five minutes however, the visitors were handed after a needless penalty in midfield and from the resulting lineout Andover were all at sea.
OT’s then missed a penalty, but exerted lots of pressure before a great Andover steal gave them a chance to drive upfield.
Great counter attacking by Potter, Josh Middleton and Ross Kier gave Andover field position and after a series of rucks, skipper Alex Hibidge had a try disallowed by the unsighted referee Neil Sweeney.
To compound Andover’s sense of injustice, OT’s were awarded a free kick from the resultant scrum and relieved the pressure.
Worse was to come as almost immediately a very harsh looking penalty was given against excellent young flanker Alex Arter and OT’s capitalised with another catch and drive try.
Tom Waite was yellow carded, and things looked to be collapsing for the ‘All Blacks.’
At half time Andover were still well in the game and with the slope and wind in favour were hopeful of turning things round.
After the break however disaster struck, and Andover conceded again.
Then, as if a switch was suddenly turned on, Andover took the game by the scruff of the neck and clawed their way back.
Powerful drives from Callum Smith and James Monck won Andover a penalty and joint men of the match Kieran Jenvey and Tom Erskine combined for Erskine to drive over with Pape converting.
Andover had not learned however and from another needless penalty OT’s yet again drove over form a lineout and Andover seemed down and out.
The injuries brought reorganisation to Andover and prop Carl Sievewright entered the fray to bolster the Andover pack.
Immediately he made an impact as from a five-meter scrum Tom Waite picked up and drove over for a lovely try.
Another Andover error let OT’s in again and when they added a penalty soon after, it looked like Andover would indeed be empty handed.
The young Andover back line, led by debutant Callum Farr, thought otherwise and began forcing OT’s back.
The Andover pack needed no second bidding and tore into the before Reed crashed over for a trademark try.
With no recognised kicker Andover were initially going to forgo the conversion, but when young Waite, stuck his hand up he was handed the kicking tee.
He slotted comfortably and with five minutes to go Andover had hope,
Back they came, charging at OT’s who defended bravely, but the sheer will and power of Andover was too much.
With two minutes to go Andover poured forwards and after a series of rucks, Jenvey wriggled over to give Andover a bonus point try.
Still eight points behind Andover checked with the referee and needing a point for a second bonus threw the ball once again to Fin Waite. He kept his cool and Andover had snatched two points from nothing.
Even then Andover were not done and from the final kick off pressed again. OT’s managed a turnover however and gratefully booted the ball to touch to hang on for their win.
Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite said, ‘We are under the cosh at the moment with injury and unavailability and that means it’s really hard to get any continuity especially in defence and it showed at times today.’
‘But you cannot fault the spirit of this team. The senior players really stood up and led the fight back and the youngsters never cease to amaze me.’
‘They are such good young players that you can play them in almost any position and they come up trumps.’
‘A word too for today’s referee. He is a real rising star and although there were a couple of things we were not happy with, he did a great job and it’s great to see the same development in young refs, as there is in players.’