New Milton 5 Andover 34
“We are not counting our chickens yet” was the firm message from Coach Andy Waite as Oakwood sponsored Andover took another giant step towards remarkable back to back promotions, at New Milton last Saturday.
Andover now sit two points clear at the top of London South west division three, with just three games to go, a position they would have hardly dared dream of when they won the Hampshire League last season.
It’s a position they very much deserve however, as Andover showed once again in this encounter, just why they have become such a formidable side.
Andover expected this to be a tough uncompromising affair and they were not disappointed as a strong New Milton side came at them from the start, but the manner in which Andover kept their cool and gradually dismantled the home side, displayed just how much they have matured in the past two seasons.
A powerful and skilful pack is the corner stone of the success story, but this term Andover have developed a pacey and clever set of backs to compliment them and also have a greater strength in depth as more and more youngsters come through to senior Rugby.
This was never more evident than last weekend when after going behind to an early try from a home side that roared out of the blocks, Andover defended stoutly, gradually inched their way back into the game and then coolly and incisively took control.
The impressive Tom Erskine led the charge with a tireless performance and it was his break that saw the ball moved wide, where Charlie Waite neatly chipped through for Elliott Copestake to score a fine try, which Waite converted to put Andover in control.
Having weathered the storm Andover calmly set about the task of first winning the game and then pushing for a bonus point.
With hooker Tom Waite and props Alex Hibdige and Nick Reed dominating both the tight and around the park, Andover had the platform to patiently wear down the home side.
Marc Wilding and Alex Morgan had similar dominance at the lineout and without the ball, the brave rear-guard by New Milton eventually had to end.
When the next blow came it was through the predatory instincts of Sam Froggett who seized on a mistake to punish Milton with a wonderfully taken score.
As Andover piled on the pressure Milton transgressed and Charlie Waite coolly slotted a penalty to increase the lead before the forwards finally delivered a fatal blow.
Wilding touched down from an awesome short scrum and when Waite converted the game was done as a contest.
After the break Milton tried to come back, but once again some tigerish defence, including a wonderful Hibdige turnover, backed by the ability of the young Andover backs to counter attack from anywhere, soon had them on the back foot again.
Andover used the boot to keep Milton deep in their own half and from another short scrum the Andover pack once again marched over their opponents, for a penalty try converted by Waite.
With bonus point secured Andover rang the changes and relaxed into complete control of the game.
After several close calls it was Froggett once again who showed all of his experience to complete the scoring with another fantastic finish just before the end of the game.
Afterwards Coach Andy Waite was very impressed with the maturity of the performance. “This is the kind of game we may have lost a couple of years ago,” he said.
“The New Milton coaches expected a reaction from their team and they would have been pleased at what they saw.”
“But we have grown so much as a group and have leaders everywhere now who really believe in what they are doing. I’ve told them that if they can keep doing this for the next month, they can achieve legendary status within this club and since they are all still pretty young, who knows where they can take it.”
This weekend Andover host old rivals Fordingbridge in the semi-final of the Hampshire bowl and are taking no chances.
“Firstly we want to win this competition and secondly we know how dangerous they can be. We also know at this time of year momentum is so important so we will be at full strength” said Waite.
Kick-off is at 3.00pm and all are welcome.