Andover 34 Old Colfeians 16
It was a journey into the unknown for Oakwood sponsored Andover last weekend as they welcomed tough opposition to the Goodship ground in the National Intermediate cup.
Andover have not played at this level for ten years and have never played in this competition.
But whilst they have much the same squad they’ve had for the past three seasons, some good additions coupled with a greater maturity, means Andover are now a side anyone takes lightly at their peril.
Indeed Andover made several forced changes to their selected side with Aaron Hatcher and Simon Preece coming into the back row for injured skipper Alex Morgan and Sam Fletcher, whilst George Roscoe replaced Niko Rowe in the centre.
James Monck replaced injured Carl Sievewright on the bench, whilst there late call ups for backs Ben Hall and Stefan Long.
“It really didn’t matter in the end” said Head Coach Andy Waite “as each one of the lads that came in fully looked the part and one or two really staked a claim for a starting spot.”
Colfeians came into this one, off of the back of a strong preseason themselves and clearly expected to teach the new boys of Andover a lesson with their giant pack used to dominating games up front.
They met an irresistible force in the tight however, as the magnificent Andover front five, at first matched the Kent steam roller, gradually making it creak and groan before finally destroying it in the final quarter.
The five were superb throughout in both the tight and the loose. Stand in skipper Nic Reed led the way with a typically bullish performance, hooker Tom Waite and prop Alex Hibidge ran and tackled their hearts out all afternoon, whilst second rows Tom Erskine and Matt Moore looked calm and assured on the ball and are growing into a real pairing.
One down side for Andover however was once again they started the game slowly and ten minutes of constant pressure from the visitors, was eventually rewarded with a neat try.
Andover didn’t panic though and before long with ball in hand, their backs showed that they were superior in every way to their opponents, with some incisive running.
Colfeians struggled with the pace of the ‘All Blacks’ running game and when Waite and Reed smashed through to set up a maul deep in the twenty two, the ball flashed to Roscoe who’s clever break gave Jack Stott the easiest of tries on his return to the Goodship.
Andover poured forwards and went close on several occasions, but a mixture of poor options and a string of penalty offences in the red zone, unpunished by a yellow card, kept them out and as they must learn at this level, two long range penalties from Colfeians made them pay for their wastefulness.
Undaunted however Andover simply pressed harder and a set scrum move put Long in for a try his powerful performance deserved, well converted by Charlie Waite and Andover had a half time lead they would never surrender.
With wind and slope in favour Andover took control. An endless supply of scrum ball and a lineout dominated by Ollie Lindridge and Hatcher, combined with so much pace and power around the park saw Colfeians visibly wilt.
Charlie Waite was wide with a penalty but soon made amends with a further effort and as the game opened up Andover went for the throat.
Stott and Charlie Waite produced a superb turnover in defence and from a lightning break the superb Alex Kane hacked through to score under the posts with Waite converting.
Sensing blood, the excellent Kieran Jenvey was replaced at scrum half by Hall for the final quarter, as Andover looked to exploit the increasing space and it soon paid off as Kane once again danced over to give Waite an easy conversion.
With the game won Andover relaxed and the visitors soon showed them the folly of their ways with another neat try, before Andover had the last word.
From a scrum on half way Lindridge showed why he has been such a good signing, breaking clear and sprinting in from fifty metres for a try that had the large home crowd in raptures.
“In the end it was an excellent win and I was really pleased with the way we were so patient” said Waite.
“They said afterwards that their pack has not gone backwards or lost a scrum against the head for two years, well they certainly have now. It was not only that, but the attitude and commitment of the players that was impressive and I want to single out Stefan Long in particular, who came into the side scored a try and made a never say die try saving tackle, to typify what this club is about.”