News from the 1st-XV
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Saturday, 17th February 2018
G and F 20 Andover 24
High drama in an incredible last few minutes, saw Oakwood sponsored Andover complete the league double, over Hampshire rivals Gosport and Fareham away from home last weekend.
A large, noisy and very partisan home crowd was stunned into silence, as Andover kept their cool to score with the last play of the game and go a long way to protect their London South West Two status.
It was far from plain sailing for Andover though as Gosport tried to take the game to them and led three times, but a very tenacious rearguard and a scrum any club at this level would die for, saw the 'All Blacks' home.
Andover began brightly and only their own inaccuracy prevented them from taking the lead. Gosport are an experienced outfit however and they soon made Andover pay, with a neatly taken try on the blind side after a handling error in defence.
That seemed to light the touch paper for Andover however and for the next fifteen minutes Gosport were sent backwards by the clever Andover game plan.
Learning from recent set backs, a combination of big ball carriers and a quicker back row, led by the ever dependable Tom Waite, simply shut the home side out of the game.
Young flankers Fin Waite and the tenacious Alex Arter, dealt comfortably with some early home physicality, to swarm all over the park and in midfield , Billy Pollard and Charlie Waite, returning after a ten week lay off, defended superbly giving the home side nothing to feed from.
As Gosport frustration began to grow Nic Reed, Tom Erskine, Callum Smith and skipper Alex Hibdige took the game to Gosport in the loose and in the scrum they smashed into their opponents to force the issue.
After ten minutes of this dominance Gosport had to yield and prop Samson Earle continued his recent superb form with a lovely try, converted by the excellent Rich Retallick.
Andover piled on the pressure. Some superb scrummaging laid the platform, but not for the first time this season they failed to supply the killer blow.
A penalty from Retallick stretched the lead to five, but Andover sensed the Gosport coaches would get into them at half time and nothing was settled.
After the break, Gosport changed tack and as Andover adjusted, they struck twice in quick succession to re take the lead.
Andover then suffered the loss of Harrison Pape to injury, but Josh Gibbs entered the fray and along with fellow winger Callum Farr continued to shut the door on Gosport.
Andover reasserted themselves up front and as Gosport were forced to kick, fullback Ross Keir ran hard at them to give his side territory.
That was all Andover needed and from a short scrum, Tom Waite powered over to tie things up with Retallick again converting.
With ten minutes to go Andover sensed the win, but suddenly the game turned again.
Gosport rallied well and after a brief spell of pressure scored a penalty to retake the lead with just two minutes left.
It looked all over, but there was a steely determination from Andover, fuelled by the constant intervention of the home crowd,and from the kick off they forced their way up field to win a scrum five meters out.
A formality surely, but no, Gosport somehow won the ball and cleared.
Gosport were then in raptures, as the referee decided the resultant lineout was not straight and awarded them the put in.
A minute left it was all over, but in the excitement Gosport elected to scrum and Andover struck against the head not quite believing their luck.
With the clock gone, scrum half Kieran Jenvey calmly directed his troops and with phase after phase on the Gosport line, again they had to crack.
With the tension almost to bursting point, the clever Earle again kept his cool and crashed over to set the wild Andover celebrations going.
Retallick converted again, the referee ended the game and once again Andover had defied the odds.
Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite was absolutely delighted.
'We were superb today, we really stuck to the game plan and believed in what we are good at. The usual suspects were all outstanding, but I thought the youngsters in particular really did well in an absolute cauldron.'
'I can't thank the likes of Jack Cooper, Carl Sievewight and Josh Gibbs enough who all came into the squad late to give us a bench and without them we could not have done this.'