THERE were high hopes for Oakwood sponsored Andover in their first home game of the new season, but they were brought down to earth with a bump by ambitious Battersea Ironsides side who won 36-22.

The visitors made the trip from West London having finished fourth in this league last season and having strengthened to try and gain promotion this term.

Andover, playing down the slope, started the game brightly putting Ironsides under immediate pressure but after just five minutes a big missed tackle gifted the visitors their first try.

Andover roared back and through their big forwards applied pressure, before new back rower James Smith finished a lineout catch and drive for his first Andover try.

Indeed Smith, signed in the close season from National league outfit Tring, looked a live wire throughout and promises to be a real addition to the All Blacks squad.

In the second quarter Andover turned the screw at scrum and lineout and with Nic Reed making some fantastic carries, things were looking good for Andover.

Poor decision making and some loose work at the breakdown however prevented any further scores and as frustration grew Ironsides struck another blow from a catch and drive of their own.

To their credit Andover dominated possession for the rest of the half but their own errors cost them dear as they finished the half 12-5 behind.

After the break, Andover started well with a much more direct game plan and soon cut the lead to two points with another catch and drive this time from skipper Alex Hibidge.

Things looked set fair as Andover pressed again but then five minutes of madness turned the game decisively.

First a loose offload gave the visitors an easy run in from half way and just a minute later a similarly poor piece of play by Andover let them in again.

Ironsides sensed it was there for the taking and soon rubbed salt into the wound with their best try of the game.

As the dust settled Andover seemed to regain their composure and again got on top.

Scrum half Dan Farr began dictating play and after strong running from Evan Roll and James Monck, Reed set off on a barrelling charge to score a fine individual try converted by Rich Retallick.

Andover were back in it and pressed repeatedly. Ironsides were lucky to keep 15 on the park after a blatant trip on Roll, but from a promising move in midfield another loose pass gave the visitors the decisive score.

It was a bitter blow for Andover, but with five minutes left they still had a chance of a try bonus point and they needed no second bidding.

As the visitors finally wilted several penalties in the red zone led to a yellow card for Ironsides and with the last play of the game Andover stayed patient and skipper Hibidge dived over for his second to grab a consolation.

Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite said: "We have had a poor pre season with opposition crying off in our friendlies and our Hampshire Cup game and it showed. We didn’t look ready today.

"We did some good things and looked dominant physically, but we were way off in the execution of our game plan.

"We need to be much more careful with the ball if we are going to make an impact in this division."

This Saturday, Andover are away at Winchester.