Purley John Fisher 0 Andover 32
Normal service was resumed for Oakwood sponsored Andover last Saturday as they successfully negotiated another tricky away fixture to secure a bonus point win and put their shock defeat at the hands of Exiles firmly behind them.
Preparations were not ideal for Andover as they lost talisman player coach Marc Wilding on the morning of the match and traffic delays meant they arrived late in South London.
The ‘All Blacks could have been forgiven for starting slowly in the circumstances, but when the pack got under the first kick off and came up with the ball the scene was set.
For the next two minutes Andover pounded the Fisher line and when they transgressed Charlie Waite slotted the resulting penalty for an early lead.
On a very soft wet pitch, running rugby would always be at a premium and handling errors inevitable, but Andover showed plenty of ambition knowing they needed the fifth point if possible.
Indeed at times they were a little over ambitious and in the first quarter handed Fisher a couple of good chances trying to over play in defence.
On a difficult day for kickers however Fisher missed a penalty chance and when Andover turned them over with a glorious defensive scrum in which giant prop Carl Sievewright had his opponent literally flying, the home sides challenge subsided.
With lineout superb through Simon Preece and the impressive Ash Gait, Andover had plenty of ball and as they steadily ground down the Fisher scrum after half an hour took control.
A quick tap penalty from Alex Kane, looking sharp replacing the unavailable Andy Franklin at scrum half, led to a typical Nic Reed run and when he went to ground, irrepressible hooker Tom Waite was on hand to run over for his eighth try of the season.
Andover sensed blood and immediately pressed again.
From a lineout the ball flew to George Roscoe and once again his ability to bring players into the game showed, as he fed Niko Rowe for a lovely try converted by Charlie Waite.
Half time saw Andover introduce no lesser players than Tom Erskine and Elliott Copestake from the bench and with returning skipper Alex Morgan following ten minutes later, after a short spell of Fisher belligerently trying to get back into the game, Andover killed them off.
A yellow card for persistent ruck offences gave Andover an advantage they scarcely needed but happily accepted and the game was soon beyond the hosts.
Andover had what looked like a brilliant try from man of the match Alex Hibidge disallowed, after the official judged Erskine’s superb offload to be forward, but it didn’t matter as Preece soon made amends driving over from a five meter scrum.
With Fisher back to a full complement in the backs Andover elected to carry on with a tight game and with Morgan showing what the team have been missing in the loose, Andover struck again.
From a spoilt scrum, Kane reacted quickest to a loose ball and with Charlie Waite’s conversion Andover had their precious fifth point.
Now more relaxed Andover opened the game and with Roscoe, pulling the strings produced some remarkable rugby in the conditions.
Indeed at times only the difficulty in holding the ball cost more tries, until stand in skipper Sammy Froggett showed how it is done with a master class of finishing to round things off.
After the game coach Andy Waite was happy and relieved. “Sammy told the players before the game that without Marc and Andy Franklin, they are the new generation that must take this club forward and they must stand up and be leaders.”
“I thought the likes of Tom Waite, Nic Reed, Simon Preece and Alex Hibidge, Alex Kane and Niko did that from start to finish and really gave our young players a stage to play on. Others did likewise when they were on the pitch.”
“Our strength in depth now is phenomenal when you look at our bench today and we really are now in a position to make a final push in our last five games.”
“We know nothing has yet been achieved and we have a lot of work to do, but I feel this squad if they keep their feet on the ground, can really achieve something special.”
Saturday Andover face a much improved Sandown and Shanklin at home who are themselves desperate for a win to try and save themselves from the drop.
“We need to look at every game as a potential banana skin at this stage” said Waite.
“Nothing else but maximum concentration and discipline will do, if we are to get over the line.”