A VERY mixed Andover side made the long journey to inner London last Saturday to face the Battersea Ironsides and the script looked to be they would be lambs to the slaughter

A scrabbled together Andover back line would surely succumb to the aristocrats of the promoted high fliers, but in the end only lost 41-29.

Well if that was the script noone had read it as a spirited and brave Andover side not only ran the home side very close, but also produced a performance of power and passion that sent a warning for next season's campaign.

Injury and unavailability has decimated Andover's back division in particular, but that can bring opportunity for others and in this game that was the case.

Led by the ever reliable Rich Retallick at stand off the Andover backs fought and tackled their hearts out in this one.

Youngsters Charlie Deaval, Alex Arter and Ali Donan playing out of position in the centre, gave everything in defence and attack, but it was perhaps new boy Liam Deaval, Charlie's brother, who epitomised the performance on his first team debut.

Back to rugby this season Deaval was never phased by the standard even though he was not originally meant to start the game and produced a performance of sheer will and fight that gained him man of the match, narrowly over his brother.

Of course the backs had to thank an immense forward performance to be in the game, and even for Andover this was dominant.

With a faultless lineout and a scrum embarrassingly on top at times, Andover strangled Ironsides running game for much of the game and but for a bit of luck could have led Andover to victory.

It looked ominous as Andover went behind in just the fourth minute to a well worked home try.

The All Blacks roared back however and after destroying the home scrum James Smith took the resulting penalty lineout and drove for Simon Preece to finish neatly with Rich Rettalick converting.

Soon after Andover should have taken the lead but the referee failed to spot Alex Arter being taken out off the ball and the chance went begging.

Ironsides did retake the lead 10 minutes later after a defensive error but Andover were dominating the ball and after great carries from Conor Green and Rettalick, Tom Waite took a lovely pass to finish neatly.

Ironsides then retook the lead from a cross kick, before Rettalick levelled it up at the break with a well struck penalty.

After the interval, the pattern continued with Andover defending their line superbly before driving Ironsides up the park with their awesome forward power.

After quarter of an hour a big missed tackle allowed the home side a breakaway but then Andover really kicked into gear.

For 15 minutes they pummelled the home side almost running forwards at scrum time and carrying strongly through Jake Dixon, Wayne Jones and skipper Alex Hibdige.

Eventually the pressure told and after more very smart work from Smith at a line out Nic Reed drove over powerfully for his first try to draw Andover level.

From the kick off Andover gave the ball away and were punished but they didn't learn and were soon further behind from neat try.

Andover came back again but were undone by the home side who scored from a huge knock on.

Prompted by James Jarvis they rallied again though and after more concerted pressure Reed completed a fine personal display with a second try converted by Rettalick.

Afterwards director of rugby Andy Waite said ' I cannot praise the players enough for bouncing back from recent poor performances in this one.'

' It was great to see debut boys Liam Deaval and Sam Frost go well and with so much disruption this was a fine overall team effort.'