It was another hard fought, closely contested game at the Goodship last Saturday, but this time Andover came out on top against neighbours Basingstoke.

The much-improved visitors travelled with several changes and a new coaching team from last season and showed the progress they have made, but Andover, despite many changes themselves, also did very well and managed the last part of the game very calmly to take the spoils.

Andover welcomed back Jake Harwood, Myles Wakeham and Billy Pollard from long term injury for this one and Toby Dixon at prop and Kris Coleman wing, both made seasonal debuts. 

It's perhaps testament to the hard work being put in at training by the whole squad that the players all fitted in seamlessly and indeed Harwood grabbed the man of the match honours with a superb defensive display.

Fellow centre CJ Feirn was also superb in defence and pacy in attack, as Andover stood up well to the threat of the big visiting back row.

Playing down the slope Andover began well and when after some phases Rich Retallick kicked a penalty it all looked good.

Basingstoke had other ideas though and soon hit back with a converted try from a neat lineout move.

The Andover scrum soon began to weave its magic though and just after Coleman missed out on a good chance, the same player went over superbly after slick hands from Feirn and Pape.

Andover pressed again with Fin Waite and youngster Louis Davies prominent in the loose and with good field position Basingstoke began to wilt.

From another dominant scrum Jake Dixon powered his way over and with Retallick on target again Andover looked in control.

Andover Advertiser: Jake Dixon squeezes over from an Andover scrumJake Dixon squeezes over from an Andover scrum (Image: Paul Campbell)

Some wasteful play before the break however prevented Andover going further ahead and with the wind and slope to come the visitors saw hope.

After the break they predictably came back at Andover and grabbed a score after a spell of pressure but crucially the conversion was missed.

Andover then produced the moment of the game.

A superb kick from Feirn was followed up by Pape and Harwood, and when they unloaded a stranded defender, Max Graham was on hand to finish superbly and with Retallick again adding the extras Andover had breathing space. 

Andover Advertiser: Max Graham finishes superbly for AndoverMax Graham finishes superbly for Andover (Image: Paul Campbell)

In truth Andover then should have finished it. Wakeham and Pape in turn both made excellent breaks, but both came to nothing with the line begging.

Basingstoke sensed they still had a chance and when they scored a late try from a catch and drive it seemed so. 

But Andover were having none of it. Both sides saw yellow as the tension started to show but, in the end, cool heads in defence from Fin Waite, Tom Erskine, skipper Alex Hibdige and the impressive Pollard made sure Andover got possession, kept it and saw out the game.

Afterwards Director of Rugby Andy Waite said: “It's so hard to get continuity at the moment with so many changes but the lads who played fought hard against a good side and prevailed in the end. The way we managed it shows we are maturing as a side and with players starting to come back we will be a force to be reckoned with going forwards.”