Effingham and Leatherhead 25 Andover 10
In their return to London league two rugby after an absence of many years, Oakwood sponsored Andover were taught a vital lesson by hosts Effingham and Leatherhead as they fell to a defeat that should never have been.
The home side have been at this level for many seasons and showed that guile and game management count for as much as ability, in a league where the first round of results show that all games are likely to be tight affairs.
It’s a lesson Andover must learn quickly, but there was much to admire in this outing, as Andover dominated huge parts of the game and with a bit more patience and street craft, showed that they can easily be a threat at this level.
At scrum time Andover once again had their opponents in constant trouble and with Aaron Hatcher and Ollie Lindridge ruling the lineout Andover enjoyed lots of possession.
In the loose things were more even but Andover still had plenty enough firepower to win this game and indeed probably should have.
Unlike recent weeks Andover began the game well and looked the more accomplished side, but on ten minutes they were punished for the first of several basic errors and that set the tone of the match.
A missed touch kick gave Effingham the chance to relieve pressure and as Andover scampered back, a fine break led to an overlap in the corner.
Andover responded quickly turning over possession from the restart and from the resulting lineout, Niko Rowe crashed through to feed Jack Stott for a fine try.
With scores level things looked bright, but Andover then pressed the self-destruct button for the remainder of the half and handed the home side a lead they just could not claw back.
A series of silly penalties saw Effingham on the Andover line and although the ‘All Blacks’ defended the lineout well they were once again caught wide out as the home side retook the lead.
Andover did not learn from the setback and a further series of penalties and poor options gave the home side a further try out wide and then crucially three points just as Andover began to get back on top just before the break.
Andover lost Charlie Waite and Carl Sievewright, which didn’t help their cause but a return to basics after the break should have brought more reward.
Andover camped in the Effingham twenty two and a host of penalties should have led to a yellow card.
Missed chances and poor options including twice knocking on at the base of push over tries, meant the score remained the same and then came the moment that sealed Andover’s fate.
A dropped ball when Andover seemed certain to score led to a rare home break and they needed no second bidding to complete their bonus point.
For the last quarter Effingham hardly touched the ball, but chance after chance went begging for Andover.
The referee finally carded a home player for killing a pushover scrum but strangely did not award the penalty try which may have given Andover real hope.
They bravely continued to press however and as time ran out Simon Preece finally finished a spell of pressure after Tom Erskine had gone close.
Afterwards Coach Andy Waite was in reflective mood.
“This is a step up in class and as at the start of last season we need to learn to play at this level” he said.
“We are a very good side with some real threats all over the pitch, but sometimes you have to be more clinical and play the percentage game. The players need to learn that things they did at lower levels and got away with, will be punished in this league with points. Once they get their heads round that I’m sure we will be fine.”