London Exiles 35 Andover 17
A brave and committed performance even in defeat, saw Oakwood sponsored Andover come away from west London with heads held high last Saturday.
Andover have had a tough start to the season with four of their first six games being away from home and hampered by key injuries and unavailability this was always going to be a very difficult game.
But the team that made the journey put in a performance to be proud of, as they not only prevented what on paper seemed certain to be a heavy defeat, but actually gave the home side a real test and with a bit more luck could have come away with a bonus point.
Such were the woes that the All Blacks travelled with only one replacement in giant prop Carl Sievewright and with a thrown together set of backs that were surely to be lambs to the slaughter.
Under the expert marshalling of backs player coach Sammy Froggett however, the young rearguard were having none of it and time and time again kept a very good home three quarter line at bay with some committed tackling and excellent floor work.
Up front was a different story as the Andover pack gave Exiles a torrid time all afternoon especially in the tight and this was crucial in helping the beleaguered backs stem the tide.
The forward dominance not only gave the team valuable respite as Andover were able to keep the ball for long periods, but it also allowed the team to gain good field position to actually launch some very telling attacks.
Alex Hibidge Tom Erskine Matt Moore and Nic Reed were outstanding as ball carriers and with the back row of Simon Preece, Ollie Lindridge and skipper Alex Morgan all lively around the park Andover always carried a threat.
Playing against strong wind and driving rain Andover went behind to two early tries and two penalties and it looked ominous especially when hooker Ash Gait, who was otherwise superb, was yellow carded for indiscipline at the ruck.
Andover rallied however, spurred by some brilliant defence from newcomer Ed Williams and youngster Charlie Waite and through their forwards willed themselves up the park to score a great try from Lindridge.
Andover fell further behind just before the break but with elements in favour felt they had literally weathered the storm.
The second half was a far more even affair and the game ebbed and flowed. Exiles added to their score, but Andover stormed back and when the lively Kieran Jenvey was prevented from scoring by foul play, Andover had a lifeline with a penalty try converted by Waite.
A man down it was Exiles turn to defend but before long Andover struck again. After some fine forward play the backs finally got some reward for their superb effort as Ben Hall fed Waite and his deft cross kick was well finished by Dave Catt.
It was too late to come back however as the whistle blew to let a grateful home side off the hook.
Afterwards coach Andy Waite was full of praise for his side “Make no mistake this would have been a tough game if we were at full strength, but with the trials we have had this week I was worried about what might happen” he said.
“But I learned a lot about the character of this group as some leaders have really started to emerge and we simply refused to lie down.”
“Ed at full back and Charlie playing for the first time at center played with so much spirit, that I think others reacted and Sammy was just exceptional in coaching the backs whilst playing at the same time.”
“What I liked the most was the forwards recognized what was going on and did everything they could to help. It was a real team effort and that’s what we are all about.”