Andover 10 London Exiles 24
It was a bad day at the office for Oakwood sponsored Andover last weekend as they suffered their first league defeat since October and their first home league defeat for more than two seasons at the hands of fellow high flyers London Exiles.
Fortunately for Andover it wasn’t all bad news as Eastleigh also lost away to Old Midwhitgiftian leaving Andover still a point clear at the top.
“The league is now a clear four horse race for two promotion spots” said coach Andy Waite. “We are still in the driving seat and it’s now up to us to respond well to this set back and finish the season strongly.”
And a setback it was for a strangely lethargic ‘All Blacks’ who were never really in this one and never produced the rugby they are capable of.
From the kick off Andover seemed nervous and soon gave a way a couple of needless penalties, but still showed enough early promise to suggest the game would be a close one.
Andover dominated the set play almost completely throughout and despite Exiles looking quick on the counter, there seemed no reason to think Andover wouldn’t wear them down.
After ten minutes however Andover imploded in a couple of minutes of madness that effectively decided the game.
Firstly when looking likely to score Andover were turned over cheaply and even though Charlie Waite produced a brilliant cover tackle to save a try, Exiles completed the matter to take the lead.
Then stand in skipper Marc Wilding was yellow carded for retaliation and Exiles licked their lips and poured forwards to take full advantage of his absence with another well taken score.
As Wilding returned Andover rallied temporarily and reduced arrears with a Charlie Waite penalty, but soon after were once again down to fourteen as Elliott Copestake saw yellow for a ruck offence.
From the penalty Exiles once again made Andover pay fully with a try from a catch and drive to stun the large home crowd.
With wind and slope in their favour Andover went into the second half still believing they could get back into the game and restored to fifteen went on the attack relentlessly.
Exiles however defended heroically and although at times it seemed impossible just managed to keep Andover out.
Some poor finishing and decision making from Andover didn’t help as chances were squandered before another poor piece of ball retention finally put Exiles out of sight.
A loose pass was kicked through for the visitors to go over unopposed under the posts for a converted try and Andover were floundering.
To be fair to Andover they never gave up and dominated the rest of the game and in the end got a consolation when Simon Preece finished a catch and drive for a try converted from wide out by Charlie Waite.
Andover went for the bonus point but were denied even that crumb of comfort when once again they were turned over cheaply whilst looking likely to score.
Afterwards Coach Andy Waite was in reflective mood “Alex Hibidge, Niko Rowe, Charlie and Alex Kane all did well today, but we had too many players off the boil.”
“Everything that could have gone wrong did, so I suppose when you look at it, to even be so close is a positive. We didn’t look after the ball anywhere near well enough to beat a good side like Exiles.”
“We had so much set ball from scrum and lineout we should have done much better, but we were inaccurate in what we did with it and got punished.”
“We won’t panic, but we need to learn from this and get back to playing the way we know we can.”
Next week Andover have a week off before a tricky away game at Purley John Fisher.