CHRISTMAS came early for the Goodship ground faithful last weekend, as a huge crowd watched Oakwood sponsored Andover, put local rivals Winchester to the sword in the last game before the festive break, beating them 41-21.

The visitors arrived unbeaten and top of the league after eleven straight wins, including a drubbing of the All Blacks on the opening day of the season.

It was clear from the off however that Andover, playing in their red change strip, were intent on revenge, as despite having the slope and strong freezing wind and rain against, they immediately took the game to Winchester.

Andover fielded a young squad, but many have gained valuable experience as the season has progressed and it was one of these players who set the tone in the first moments.

Back row Jack Cooper opened with a huge defensive hit, followed by a very strong carry and Winchester knew they were in for a tough afternoon.

After just six minutes Andover struck. A series of good phases saw Andover deep in Winchester territory and when Tom Waite took the visitors defensive scrum against the head, man of the match Nic Reed powered over for his first try of the game with Rich Rettalick converting.

With conditions in their favour Winchester tried to turn the screw, but found Andover in uncompromising mood.

They managed an early penalty, but when brothers Tom and Charlie Waite effected a big hit and turnover when Winchester seemed set to score, any chance of Winchester gaining dominance evaporated.

They did add a further penalty after the impressive Jake Dixon was unlucky to be penalised for a dangerous tackle, but vital minutes were being eaten up by a huge Andover defensive shift.

On the half hour Winchester did finally score their first try from a loose kick, but two minutes later Reed was at it again crashing over after more good running by Cooper and James Smith, with Rettalick again on target.

With the last play of the half, Winchester narrowly retook the lead with a second try, but Andover knew they had literally weathered the storm.

The hard working Carl Sievewright was replaced at the break as Andover welcomed Harry Batt back to the back row after an operation, and with the conditions in favour the extra mobility gave Andover a real edge.

Also at the break colts star CJ Feirn came on to the wing for fellow colt Harry Scobie, to become the youngest ever player to make an Andover first team debut at just seventeen years and fourteen days, adding even more pace with his all action style.

Even conceding an early try did nothing to dampen Andover spirits as they roared back at the visitors.

Ali Donan, Josh Gibbs and Charlie Deaval all shone as Andover played some good rugby despite the conditions and with skipper Alex Hibdige increasingly dominant the writing was on the wall.

After 15 minutes Andover took a Winchester scrum apart and from the resultant penalty, a catch and drive saw Reed set off on another powerful run before completing his hat trick, swatting aside a would be tackler.

After that it was all Andover. Winchester defended desperately with their full back saving two certain scores from Charlie Waite and Deaval, but Andover were not to be denied.

The impressive Ioan Gwynne Davies reacted quickly to a tap penalty to go over, with Rettalick converting for the bonus point score.

Minutes later the scrum half sprinted over again after the Andover pack demolished another Winchester scrum and the big home crowd began to believe.

With prop Toby Dixon joining brother Jake in the front five to add fresh legs, Andover piled on the misery.

With time running down Tom Waite capped another powerful display with a try from a kick chase, despite the attention of four defenders, and then almost on the whistle, Gwynne Davies set the superb Alex Arter free and the diminutive winger needed no second bidding to send the Andover fans into raptures with a final excellent try.

After the game Director of rugby Andy Waite was understandably buoyant and said: "This was a great effort today by a group of lads who are improving quickly. Many are very young so we should still expect set backs, but the way the likes of Jack Cooper, Charlie Deaval and Jake Dixon are going about their work is impressive.

"Bear in mind many of our experienced players are barely any older, its all looking promising for the future.'

"We managed to field an exciting new back row, with Harry Batt joining James Smith and Ali Donnan for the first time, and that gave us a lot of mobility to go with our huge power making us increasingly dangerous.

"We now look in a good safe league position, so we can use the second half of the season to look up the table rather than over our shoulder and develop even further."