3:31pm Tuesday 21st January 2014
Fordingbridge 30 Andover 16.
Andover suffered their third away defeat of the season at the hands of arch rivals Fordingbridge last weekend in a game that threw the league title race wide open once again.
Oakwood sponsored began the game four points clear at the top, but are now embroiled in a battle royal for promotion with Fordingbridge, Milbrook, Solent University and US Portsmouth in what promises to be an exciting fight to the finish.
In a close, tense affair Andover failed to heed the warning of the previous week against Milbrook and were made to pay for not keeping 15 on the pitch at vital times.
In truth Andover felt hard done by at some inconsistent rulings, but they were also guilty of giving away some silly penalties and at times being tactically out thought.
These teams are always evenly matched and often it is small things that turn games between them.
In this case, trailing to an early try Andover fought back well with two Rich Retallick penalties and when ‘Bridge had a player sin binned it seemed Andover might take control.
Nic Reed was making huge inroads with the ball in hand and Andover seemed rampant.
Crucially though Elliott Copestake lost his footing when certain to score and when Andover also spurned another great chance conceding a penalty at a short scrum, ‘Bridge breathed again.
Then came a moment of controversy which ultimately turned the game.
Simon Preece was sin binned for an offence at a ruck that had everyone except the referee scratching their heads and ‘Bridge quickly showed Andover exactly how to use the extra man with two tries before the break.
Andover, restored to 15, came out all guns blazing in the second half and for the first time in the game got their running game going.
Their imperious lineout won a stream of good ball and when Copestake interchanged with Niko Rowe, the centre’s fine finish converted by Rich Retallick put Andover right back in it.
All looked good but Andover immediately gave away another needless penalty and from the resultant lineout skipper Alex Morgan was adjudged to have pulled the maul down.
Rest of this story in a full page from Hampshire's All Blacks in Friday's Advertiser
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