Romsey 12 Andover 74.
“It’s back in our hands, now we need to focus and get the job done.”
That was the firm message from head coach Andy Waite as Andover moved back to the top of Hampshire Division One last Saturday, after a dramatic twist in the closest of title races.
Before the day began arch rivals Fordingbridge were red hot favourites to clinch top spot, but they blinked first in the stand-off with Andover by failing to secure a bonus point away to US Portsmouth and Andover drove home the advantage with another huge away win, this time at Test Valley neighbours Romsey.
All of this means the two top sides are now equal on points, but Andover’s 125 tries in just 21 games has left them with a massive points difference advantage.
If both sides, as expected, win their final home games with a bonus point this Saturday, it will be the All Blacks who finish as champions and direct promotion back to the London leagues.
Andover have put themselves in this position with a stunning run of 14 victories in 15 games and were in no mood to do anything different at Romsey last weekend.
They lost this potential banana skin last year but this time dominated from start to finish in every department apart from a ten minute second half spell and in the end ran in 11 tries.
Romsey themselves needed a bonus point to be safe from relegation but they were denied by an Andover performance which, particularly up front, simply blew them away.
The pack have been very impressive all year and in this game had a field day with Tom Waite taking almost every scrum and ruling the lineout through Marc Wilding, Alex Morgan and Simon Preece.
Around the park where Tom Erskine and Matt Moore in particular shone, they were also too sharp and perhaps only in their kicking game did they at times give Romsey hope when their lively back three were able to counter attack.
Andover weathered an early Romsey attack and after just eight minutes took the lead with a pushover try finished by Wilding.
Ten minutes later Martin Smiles kicked a penalty and then from another short scrum man of the match Paul Tuinasakea burst over for his first try to give Andover a cushion.
As Romsey sagged Nic Reed weighed in with trademark score and before the break, Tuinasakea added his second after some great handling and continuity by Erskine, Moore and Andy Franklin.
After the break Andover pressed on and after good pressure the superb Callum Staff put Tuinasakea in to complete his hat-trick.
Young winger Jake Kane neatly finished a set play from a scrum and James Dawson did likewise from a text book line out play.
Not to be outdone by his centre partner Jack Stott then joined the fray with a wonderful try after gathering a Franklin box kick.
Andover then relaxed a little and Romsey showed they were not to be toyed with by grabbing two good tries of their own but stung back into action Andover responded well and finished strongly.
Dave Catt finished neatly after a scrum set up by a big Erskine hit and Stott then completed his brace with a wonderful individual break.
The final try came fittingly from old stager Wilding who retires from regular first team rugby at the end of this season.
In what could be his last first team outing, he finished a catch and drive lineout in style and with Smiles completing his personal tally of 19 points with the conversion, Andover were within touching distance of automatic promotion.
Waite added “We kick-off at 3pm at the Goodship Ground. Be there and be part of it.”
More from Andover RFC in Friday's Advertiser.