Andover 66 Southampton 5
Oakwood sponsored Andover kept up the fierce pressure at the top of Snows Hampshire division one with a solid win against struggling Southampton.
Andover remain one point behind leaders Fordingbridge and its becoming a case of who blinks first, as the two teams slog it out for the top spot and automatic promotion.
Bridge also kept their nerve winning against Solent University and it is the next round of games in two weeks’ time that will almost certainly decide the title.
Andover are away to Romsey and must get five points and hope Bridge slip up against US Portsmouth as both clubs have final games they would hope to win.
“It’s in Fordingbridge’s hands and all we can do is win our last two matches well” said Head coach Andy Waite.
“We need to make sure we get our bonus points and hope they drop at least one. They have US Portsmouth though who are a tough outfit and are still in the hunt themselves, so hopefully they can do us a favour.”
Andover began this game in front of a large noisy crowd in fine style.
From the kick off the lively Tom Waite caught the ball and set off on a mazy run which was stopped short of the line and Andy Franklin drove over to open the scoring.
Rich Retallick converted and was soon on target again after Jack Stott won the race to his own kick and chase.
Stott was his usual enigmatic self and after Southampton missed a penalty chance he launched a kick downfield which he fielded himself brilliantly, before setting Elliott Copestake way for a wonderful try.
Retallick again added the extras and when Simon Preece finished a catch and drive lineout he made the score 28 0 in the first quarter.
With the bonus point secure Andover understandably eased off a little and the game steadied, but a ten minute spell before the break had the crowd purring as three further tries put them out of sight.
A Marc Wilding cross kick saw Matt Moore pounce on a loose ball for a try, again converted by Retallick and Wilding himself then got on the score sheet with a pushover try.
Just before the break, Stott completed his brace with a wonderful break and it was all over as a contest.
In the second half Andover rang the changes to give players pitch time and look at positional options and this disrupted the flow of the game.
They went further ahead after just three minutes though, through the excellent Paul Tuinasakea and when soon after Moore got his second from the base of a scrum, both converted by Retallick it seemed the floodgates would open.
Andover took their foot off the pedal a little however and it took another fifteen minutes for Nic Reed to add a trademark try.
Retallick added the conversion and that was that for Andover.
The last quarter became a fractious and scrappy affair as frustration took hold and Southampton had the last word with a try of their own as reward for their efforts as the game petered out.
“The second half was not as good as we would have liked.” Said Waite.
“But it gave us a chance to look at Ash Gait at hooker for the first time and Matt Moore at eight as we begin to plan for the future so I’m pretty happy.”