Alton 10 Andover 31
A very popular try for giant prop Carl Sievewright, his first ever in any level of rugby, sealed a solid if unspectacular win for Oakwood sponsored Andover against old rivals Alton last Saturday.
How the fortunes of sport can change as former power lifter Sievewright, only just returned from the misery of sixteen months out with a serious knee injury, could not contain his joy at crossing the whitewash.
The game was played at Lord Wandsworth College due to flooding at Alton’s ground and the small pitch played into the hosts’ hands as Andover found it hard to use their pace wide out.
A howling gale did nothing to assist either as Andover were forced into plan B and simply ground Alton down with a display of pure forward power.
Although the home side battled hard throughout to make sure there was no repeat of the humiliation they suffered at the ‘all blacks’ hands earlier this season, it was in the end damage limitation as Andover found another gear in the second half to run out comfortable winners.
With wind in their favour Andover would have expected more from a scrappy first half in which too often they took wrong options and missed guilt edged chances.
Without injured hooker Tom Waite Andover resorted to sheer power in the front row moving prop Nic Reed to the middle and bringing in powerhouse Sievewright to the tight head side.
With loose head Alex Hibidge having a field day it worked well as Andover dominated every scrum and with an almost endless supply of ball at the lineout through Marc Wilding, Andover should have been out of sight.
Andover took the lead after just ten minutes with a powerful try from Paul Tuinasakea after good work from Andy Franklin.
It took another twenty five minutes to add to this however when Wilding finally finished off a short scrum.
Rich Retallick converted both to give Andover a less than secure half time lead.
Almost immediately after the break Andover conceded a silly penalty to give Alton hope, but soon made amends as centres Niko Rowe and James Dawson combined superbly to put academy graduate Jake Kane in for a try on his first team debut.
That ought to have been it, but a defensive mix up gave Alton a chance and with their first real attacking threat of the day they scored a well worked converted try.
To their credit Andover did not panic and tightened the game up, forcing Alton back and combining backs and forwards with some superb driving play.
And then it happened.
Winger Jack Stott set off on a mazy run which set up superb field position and after a series of forward drives, Sievewright grabbed the ball and drove at the line for a score that brought wild celebrations from the whole Andover squad.
Retallick converted and Andover had the victory and a bonus point secure.
Soon after Andover stretched the lead further as Rowe smashed through to score after good work from Wilding and Tuinasakea.
Alton never gave up and a series of attacks led to a yellow card for Andover who then showed just how good the defensive side of the game is.
Holding their own comfortably with only seven in the scrum, Andover kept Alton at bay for the final ten minutes and completed a satisfactory day at the office.
Afterwards coach Andy Waite said “Alton are a proud old club and we did not delude ourselves that they would do anything other than fight tooth and nail to avenge what happened earlier this year.”
“We didn’t panic, dealt with the fire and then came back and in the end won well.”
“We know only too well that games like this can be the difference in a promotion race and I think in the end both sets of coaches will be happy with how their players responded.“