Andover 27 Old Midwhitgiftian 8
The final whistle was greeted with huge cheers and the celebrations began in earnest, as Oakwood sponsored Andover signed off on a very successful London South West division three campaign at Foxcotte Park last Saturday, by confirming their promotion for the second successive season.
Coming into the game Andover still had an outside chance of being Champions, but the miracle needed in West London was not to be and it was rivals London Exiles who took the crown.
“It’s been an unbelievable season for Andover and we can be so proud of what we’ve achieved” said Coach Andy Waite
“Exiles just about deserved the title as they did the double over us, but we have been excellent and thoroughly deserve to be going up as well.”
“It’s just marvellous for everyone involved with the club, to think that next season we will pit our wits on an equal basis with Basingstoke, Winchester and Portsmouth in the league. It’s where we feel we belong and we are relishing the challenge.”
In front of a bumper crowd Andover had to focus on doing a difficult job in case of any Exiles slip up and also gain revenge on a tough Old Midwives outfit, who beat them in Andover’s baptism of fire in this league, way back in September.
The fortunes of both clubs have ebbed and flowed since then, but the visitors showed just why they have pipped Eastleigh for third spot, giving Andover a hard fought sixty minutes before finally succumbing to the ‘All Blacks’ power and pace in the final quarter.
Andover began like an express train and spurned two early try scoring chances as Midwives struggled to live with the pace.
Despite scrummaging uphill and being without giant second row Tom Erskine, the Andover front row of Carl Sievewright, Alex Hibdige and Tom Waite smashed into their opponents winning lots of possession, but time and again desperate defence and poor finishing thwarted the waves of attacks.
Andover’s generosity encouraged the visitors to rally and it was left to the trusty boot of Charlie Waite to give Andover the lead with two well struck penalties.
Indeed the youngster was sure he’d added a third kick, but the touch judges could not decide if the ball had gone through the posts and the referee ruled he could not give the points.
Andover seemed in complete control, but soon learned a lesson they must take into next season if they are to do well. You relax at your peril against good opposition and Midwives stormed back to grab a try.
Still leading by a point at the break and with the slope in favour Andover felt confident, but soon went behind to a midwives penalty.
As so often this year though, Andover didn’t panic and with skipper Alex Morgan and Matt Moore prominent, simply turned the screw even further and before long a brilliant try restored the lead.
A superb backs move involving Niko Rowe and Elliott Copestake led to Billy Pollard feeding Marc Wilding and the veteran rolled back the years to go in for a score converted by Charlie Waite.
At last Andover took complete control and with the fresh legs of Kieran Jenvey and ash Gait adding even more pace to the side further scores were inevitable.
Midwives still did not lay down and make it easy for Andover defending heroically at times, but Tom Waite’s quick thinking at a short penalty caught them out as he crashed over to score and minutes later another great break from Rowe fed Sammy Froggett for a trademark try, both efforts converted by Charlie Waite.
With victory secure the referee called an end to proceedings and the party began for a group of lads who have given everything for their club and their town this year.
“I think what makes this even more remarkable is the youth of this team” said Andy Waite
“We have Charlie and George Roscoe who are obviously very young, but apart from three players, the whole of the rest of this squad have come out of our Academy over the past seven years or so.”
“You look across at the second team who had a thumping win themselves today and see the same thing. The effect of all of the hard work that has gone in over the past twelve years to develop the Academy is now really paying off and with quality new youngsters coming off the conveyor belt every season we know we have more to come.”