Bognor 3 Andover 20
Oakwood sponsored Andover moved back to the top of Snows Hampshire division one last Saturday (22nd February) with a fine win over a much improved Bognor outfit.
There may be a clue in the title Bognor, as the pitch resembled a quagmire in places, but Andover again showed what a flexible outfit they have become in overcoming the terrible conditions underfoot.
The home team were intent on upsetting Andover and were very physical in their approach, but Andover through Tom Waite and Alex Hibidge in particular, withstood the bettering and came out worthy winners.
Overcoming a long away trip and tough determined opponents is the stuff promotion is made of and Andover have put themselves right in the mix with this impressive performance.
The Andover squad was again tested to the full with late withdrawals in the backs and it took Andover some time to adjust.
Bognor took advantage to land a penalty after ten minutes but they rarely threatened again as Andover gradually took control.
Forwards and backs began to combine as Nic Reed punched holes in the home defence and Callum Staff began to assert his influence at stand off.
Before long Andover should have taken the lead when Niko Rowe was taken out off of the ball when certain to score after a great run by Marc Wilding.
The penalty should have been followed by a yellow card but it was not to be and the resulting kick was also missed to rub salt in the wound.
Andover regathered and from a short scrum great hands from Rowe and Staff saw Martin Smiles go over for Andover’s first try which he converted himself superbly.
Just before the break Andover should have extended the lead but Reed could not hold Waite’s scoring pass and the chance went begging.
After the break Andover took complete control with a second try.
A fine Andy Franklin penalty set up filed position and from the resulting lineout Marc Wilding was driven over by his pack to score.
In the conditions this lead was unassailable and it was then a question of if Andover could do enough for a bonus point.
On came Carl Sievewright and Simon Preece up front to bolster the forward momentum and Chris George made his seasonal debut on the wing.
Bognor defended stoutly however and held Andover at bay for a long spell as the mud and water played its part.
With five minutes to go Andover finally broke through again.
Franklin and Wilding again combined to set skipper Alex Morgan free and he timed his pass superbly to put Elliott Copestake in at the corner.
Andover threw caution to the wind in the final few minutes to try and get the extra point but Bognor again stubbornly held them out and Andover had to settle for the four point win.
Afterwards Coach Andy Waite was full of praise for his side. “With all the changes and the conditions we were bound to be a bit disjointed but we showed a lot of character” he said.
“We tried to run the ball when we could but it was tough for players to keep their footing and to get three tries even was a great effort.”
“We have given ourselves a great chance now of a top two finish although Fordingbridge do have a game in hand.”
The next couple of games are pivotal to Andover’s promotion push as the season builds to a fascinating finale.