Andover 8 US Portsmouth 5.
Oakwood sponsored Andover emerged victorious on Saturday to cement themselves as genuine contenders in the race for Hampshire League One writes Andy Waite.
In a tough, dour battle they eventually saw off a very good US Portsmouth side with a solid if unspectacular performance in which forward power and organised defence were the watch word for both teams.
In truth for much of this game both sides nullified each other’s threat in wide areas and it was left to forwards to battle for supremacy.
In this area Andover once again just about had the edge particularly in the front five and it was clever use of their powerful scrum by skipper Marc Wilding that eventually saw them home.
US came with a strong side and set out their stall early using big powerful runners to test the Andover defence.
Martin Smiles, James Dawson and Jack Stott stood firm in midfield however and this seemed to disrupt US completely while Alex Hibdidge, Tom Waite and Billy Pollard were superb at the breakdown winning a stream of penalties to frustrate the visitors and gain territory.
Midway through the first half came the defining moment of the game.
A flying try saving tackle from Sam Froggett kept US at bay and moments later, pressure from the Andover midfield forced an error and Stott seized the interception to race 80 metres for a try.
Soon after Stott also added a penalty to give Andover a narrow lead they would never surrender.
Andover began to turn the screw up front and should have gone further ahead after a superb piece of play by Waite was spoiled by a loose Andover pass with the line begging.
Just before the break though US showed what a force they are striking from deep with a well taken try to leave them just three points adrift.
With the slope in their favour US must have thought they were in the driving seat but Andover were having none of it.
Marshalled by Wilding Andover changed tactics and showed the other side of their game.
Late arrival Paul Tuinsakea finally took the field to settle some jangling nerves and Andover shut up shop.
It wasn’t pretty but Andover simply dominated possession and kicked deep for territory to keep US at arm’s length then as the end came in sight Andover turned the screw even harder as the boot of the excellent Elliott Copestake sent them deep into the US half and with Nic Reed shining Andover simply camped there.
Afterwards head coach Andy Waite said: “This was a tough, tough game and sometimes you have to able to grind out a result. We managed that in the end but in all honesty we shouldn’t have been in that position.
‘The break last week didn’t help us and our preparation for this game was not what it should have been. It showed in some of our attacking play and our lineout and although we got away with it we need to sort it out this week in training.
I can’t fault the effort we put in today but we need to make sure we stay committed and organised if we really want to challenge for the title.’ Full round up from Andover RFC with ;pictures in Friday's Advertiser