THE young guns of Oakwood sponsored Andover won their final game of 2017 by beating visiting local rivals Winchester 17-15 in the league for the first time in 12 years and taking a massive step away from the London South West two relegation zone in the process.

In front of a big noisy crowd the tension could be cut with a knife at times, but Andover kept their cool to see the game out, for a much needed win, that left the visitors looking nervously over their shoulder to avoid the drop.

Andover fielded six teenagers in their squad, all academy graduates and they were wonderfully led by a group of senior players who withstood all Winchester could throw at them in the first half, before putting the visitors to the sword in the second.

Indeed Andover’s back three of Ioan Gwynne Davies, Josh Middleton and Jack Potter, all just eighteen, must be the youngest ever fielded by the club.

In the pack, huge lock Callum Smith and back row Finlay Waite completed the contingent from last years successful colts team, whilst at stand off the even younger Harrison Pape, in just his second ever senior game, turned in an assured man of the match performance.

Andover welcomed back talismen Tom Waite and Niko Rowe to the side, but were rocked after just five minutes when Ben Ciccotti was forced off with what looked a nasty shoulder injury.

Playing up the slope Andover came under heavy pressure, but an early scrum against the head and some outstanding defending from Tom Erskine and Nic Reed kept Winchester at bay.

The visitors had their tails up however and Andover barely saw the ball for the next ten minutes.

Andover soaked it up with Rowe and fellow centre Evan Roll making crucial turnovers and Winchester began to flag, until an error at a lineout finally let them in for a try.

Andover sensed they had weathered the storm however and began to gain a foothold.

After a strong run Middleton was taken off with a suspected head injury, forcing Fin Waite to the wing and bringing Ollie Lindridge into the back row.

Lindridge had a point to prove and soon began dominating the lineout and in the loose the Andover forwards began to take control.

Tom Waite, Reed, Erskine and skipper Alex Hibidge all began carrying strongly and when youngster Smith took their lead and did likewise, Winchester began to crack.

A penalty gave Winchester a little more breathing space, but ominously for the last five minutes of the half Andover camped on their line and ought to have scored.

At the break Andover tried to bring Middleton back, but the excellent Referee Jack Tompkins, rightly invoked the head injury protocol and soon after Simon Preece was also forced off, bringing Carl Sievewright’s power to the front row, with Tom Waite moving to number eight.

Winchester rallied briefly and both sides missed penalties before a moment that changed the game.

As Winchester tried to launch an attack, Fin Waite intercepted on his own ten metre line and set off.

No one told him he wasn’t actually a winger and sixty metres later, with chasing cover left in his wake, he completed a fine try, superbly converted by Pape.

Andover sensed Winchester were stunned and went for the throat.

After another Reed surge, Andover went through the phases, before Tom Waite powered over to increase the lead.

Now it was the visitors turn not to touch the ball as Andover put them under extreme pressure.

From a scrum five, Kieran Jenvey and Tom Waite broke, powerhouse Billy Pollard took the pass and he was not going to be stopped.

That score gave Andover breathing space and as time ticked down Andover kept possession sensibly.

With moments left Andover looked set for a bonus point try, but a scrum free kick allowed Winchester to break and with the last play of the game they gave themselves something to cheer, with a bonus point try of their own.

Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite was a very relieved man. ‘In the context of the season this was a massive win and it was done in a manner that the lads can be proud of.’ ‘Two large sets of passionate noisy fans created a great atmosphere and it would have been easy for our youngsters to freeze, especially after going behind, but instead they rose to the occasion and executed the small things really well.’ ‘We continued our improvement in defence and today at last, we were far more patient and took our chances when we were in attack. Winchester have been a hoodoo for us that we have now finally broken, so we go into the break confident that we belong in this league."

Andover's next game in London Two South West is away to Camberley on Saturday January 6.