Andover 24 Fordingbridge 17
Oakwood sponsored Andover came through their toughest test of the season so far with a display of power and pace that league favourites Fordingbridge found too hot to handle.
In a pulsating game both sides produced a quality of rugby far beyond the division they in and after eighty minutes of going toe to toe, it was Andover who emerged just the stronger.
It certainly didn’t seem that way at the start as Fordingbridge flew out of the blocks from the kick off.
Andover’s pre match preparation was disrupted with two players being late due to a car accident and they were caught cold by the visitors’ onslaught.
A try in the corner was followed just minutes later by a successful kick and chase and the team that have been scoring for fun this season looked ominously like they were at it again.
Andover however had other ideas and began to get into the game through the extra power of their forwards.
They began to dominate set play even though scrummaging up the slope and crucially win the battle at the breakdown.
Andover turned the screw and after missing a couple of penalties finally got the score they deserved.
A great break from Niko Rowe led to a short scrum and from a following ruck Craig Snook drove powerfully over.
Andover pressed again sensing that they could complete the comeback before the break and after a third penalty from a short scrum the excellent referee Ian Brown lost patience with the ‘Bridge’ pack to give Andover a penalty try, which Jack Stott converted.
With the slope in favour Andover felt they were in the driving seat but Bridge started the second half stronger.
With Marc Wilding directing operations in defence and a couple of crunching Henry Rennison tackles Andover held firm and regained the upper hand.
Martin Smiles went close and another penalty was missed but Bridge then retook the lead against the run of play with a neat try.
Andover stayed calm and after a spell of pressure Tom Waite took a flat pass from Andy Franklin to smash Andover back ahead.
Jack Stott converted and then just five minutes later it was enigmatic Stott who finally sealed the win.
The superb Franklin once again put Andover away and Stott won the race to his kick for the winning try.
Afterwards Andover coach Andy Waite was full of praise for both teams. “What a game of rugby that was for this division.” He said.
“They are a very good side and we had to dig deep. I must give huge credit to our skipper Alex Morgan who really led from the front today but I think the game was won in the end by a front five that were just superb in the tight and loose.”
“To have such strong scrummagers who are also so dynamic around the park is a huge bonus. So Alex Hibidge, Tom Waite, Nic Reed, Craig Snook, Aaron Hatcher and Matt Moore, take a bow.”
Next week Andover travel to Millbrook for another big test against a team who have started well. No one said it would be easy.