Andover 66 Southampton 5.

Andover kept up the fierce pressure at the top of Hampshire Division One with a solid win against struggling Southampton.

They remain a point behind leaders Fordingbridge as the teams slog it out for the top spot and automatic promotion.

‘Bridge also kept their nerve winning against Solent University and it is the next round of games in two weeks’ time that will almost certainly decide the title.

Oakwood sponsored Andover are away to Romsey and must get five points and hope ‘Bridge slip up against US Portsmouth as both clubs have final games they would hope to win.

“It’s in Fordingbridge’s hands and all we can do is win our last two matches well” said head coach Andy Waite.

“We need to make sure we get our bonus points and hope they drop at least one.

‘They have US Portsmouth though who are a tough outfit and are still in the hunt themselves, so hopefully they can do us a favour.”

Andover began in front of a large noisy crowd in fine style and from the kick-off the lively Tom Waite set off on a mazy run which was stopped short of the line and Andy Franklin drove over to open the scoring.

Rich Retallick converted and was soon on target again after Jack Stott won the race to his own kick and chase.

Stott was his usual enigmatic self and after Southampton missed a penalty chance he launched a kick downfield which he fielded himself brilliantly, before setting Elliott Copestake way for a wonderful try.

Retallick again added the extras and when Simon Preece finished a catch and drive lineout he made the score 28-0 in the first quarter.

With the bonus point secure Andover understandably eased off a little and the game steadied, but a ten minute spell before the break had the crowd purring as three further tries put them out of sight.

A Marc Wilding cross kick saw Matt Moore pounce on a loose ball for a try, again converted by Retallick and Wilding himself then got on the score sheet with a pushover try.

Just before the break, Stott completed his brace with a wonderful break and it was all over as a contest.

In the second half Andover rang the changes but went further ahead through the excellent Paul Tuinasakea and when Moore got his second from the base of a scrum, both converted by Retallick it seemed the floodgates would open.

However and it took another 15 minutes for Nic Reed to add a trademark try converted by Retallick and that was that for Andover.

Southampton had the last word with a try as the game petered out.

Waite added: “It gave us a chance to look at Ash Gait at hooker for the first time and Matt Moore at eight as we begin to plan for the future so I’m pretty happy.”

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