Andover 20 Weybridge Vandals 26

In a game that was an absolute credit to London League rugby and both sides taking part, Saxon Safety sponsored Andover just ran out of time, to complete a stirring comeback against league leaders Vandals at the Goodship ground last Saturday.

Andover, who welcomed back hooker Tom Waite for his first start for some time and switched CJ Feirn to his county U20 position at no 8 for this one, began playing up the hill and against a stiff breeze in an unfamiliar red kit due to a colour clash.

The game began brightly with both sides showing great attacking intent. Vandals huge front five, rarely get given a contest like this, but at scrum time Andover more than matched them and with lineouts almost all going to the throwing team, both sides had plenty of possession.

Vandals used the slope and wind to their advantage, pinning Andover back, and although Andover's much improved defence held firm for a while, the visitors eventually opened the scoring.

Andover although generally playing well, were guilty of indiscipline and too many personal errors, giving away knock ons and penalties. A team as good as Vandals were not going to turn the opportunities down and as they piled on the pressure, they added a second neat try this time converted.

The visitors looked very assured and the Goodship faithful feared the worst, but this Andover side are very capable themselves and soon showed why.

In a scintillating move that saw Andover stand-off louis Periera and centre Ioan Gwynne Davies spread the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, after great carries from Nic Reed, Rob Sutherland and man of the match James Monck, the ball came to Harry Scobie, and with plenty still to do the big powerful winger forced his way over for a superb try.

From the restart Andover showed a bit of inexperience and gave Vandals great field position after knocking on trying to run out of defence.

Once again the visitors needed no second bidding and after a series of phases their stand-off danced though the Andover defence to score a fine try again converted.

Andover knew against such a good side that even with the wind and slope to come in the second half, they needed to be closer to Vandals at the break to stand a chance.

They launched a wave of attacks, with Conor Green, Feirn and skipper Alex Hibdige all heavily involved.

Twice a combination of Bryn Waite and brother Tom at the front of the lineout almost undid Vandals and from a delicious wrap around move involving Tommy Lloyd, Andover thought Harrison Pape had scored, only for the full back to be ruled in touch at the last moment.

Andover were undaunted however and just before the break the impressive scrum half Sean Higgins timed his pass to giant centre Stan North to perfection who, simply smashed the defence aside to send Andover in 19-10 adrift at the break.

In the second half Andover turned the screw enjoying a lot of possession. Time and again they were in the vandals red zone but some dogged defending along with some poor options kept Andover at bay.

Midway through the half Andover frustration told and from a penalty they were marched back ten meters twice for back chat to the referee.

The visitors could scarcely believe their luck at being brought into catch and drive range, and once again they made no mistake in accepting the gift for a further converted score.

Andover looked beaten but that's rarely something they accept and predictably they roared back at vandals.

With Rich Retallick, Jack Stott and Callum Barber Starkey all now on the pitch, wave after wave of attack saw Reed, Higgins, North and Scobie all go close.

Pape almost got on the end of an excellent Pereira cross kick and Tom Waite thought he'd scored from a pick and drive but was judged to be short.

With just five minutes left vandals finally broke. They gave away a penalty and Feirn's quick thinking was too much for them as he took a tap and sprinted in under the posts with Retallick converting.

Vandals looked rattled but hung on bravely denying Andover a chance to get within winning range. With seconds left however they conceded a penalty and Andover had a choice to make. Kick for touch and go for a try to get two bonus points or take the easier kick to take one bonus point?

Andover chose the less risky route, Retallick did the honours and the Andover had at least one point to show for a fine performance.

Afterwards director of Rugby Andy Waite said: β€œIt's a measure of how far we've come that I feel a bit disappointed that we didn't win. We were excellent second half with James Monck in particular outstanding at tight head. This team is only going to get better with so many youngsters coming through and to have sixteen home grown players out of eighteen on show, is a remarkable achievement.”