Winchester 30 Andover 17

In a wonderfully competitive game that was an advert for rugby at this level, Andover just failed to overcome a very good Winchester side in their own backyard last Saturday.

The home side are flying in second place in the league and in a promotion spot, but it was difficult to tell who was the higher side for much of this one, as Andover produced some fast adventurous rugby of their own.

Watched by a large crowd, with plenty of their own fans having made the journey, Andover started well. 

A fine turnover from Jake Dixon set Andover away and from a superb break by Jake Harwood and Stan Bell, Harrison Pape just went in to touch when looking likely to score.

Soon after Rich Rettalick was wide with a penalty given for obstruction, but was soon on target to give Andover the lead, after an awesome scrummage led to a penalty.

Winchester then enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure. Great work from Bryn Waite and Dixon again at a lineout denied them and in midfield Harwood and CJ Feirn were impassable.

In the end though the pressure had to tell and from a series of phases, Andover ran out of defenders and Winchester took the lead.

Soon after the home side were at it again and it looked ominous for Andover as they scored again.

This Andover side have grown a lot in recent weeks though and their sheer pace is troubling all defences. 

Instead of lying down to the Winchester onslaught they simply fired back. 

A superb break by Finlay Waite was followed by some brilliant interplay between him, his brother Bryn, Sean Higgins and Bell, and just as Andover seemed certain to score a wonder try, a deliberate knock on intervened. 

A yellow card and penalty followed for Winchester and from the lineout, Andover moved the ball quickly for man of the match Bell to put on the after burners and score a fine try converted by Retallick. 

Just before the break after more belligerent Andover defence, Winchester decided to take three points from a penalty to give themselves a seven point lead.

In the second half Winchester came straight back at Andover, but a combination of superb scrummaging and a very secure lineout, kept them at arms length. Skipper Alex Hibdige and Elliot Bryne were superb at scrum time and with old war horse Tom Waite back at hooker, Andover enjoyed plenty of success.

After fifteen minutes though Winchester struck. A goal line clearance was fielded and a disorganised chase allowed them the space to counter and score a neat unconverted try.  

Soon after Winchester again showed their respect for the Andover defence by kicking a penalty, rather than go for a bonus point try, but Andover soon narrowed the gap again.

With Callum Barber Starkey and Robbie Duncan joining the fray up front Andover had fresh impetus.

From another good lineout Andover went wide and after phases, Bryn Waite dived over a ruck to score a try converted by the excellent Ollie Carr-Smith. 

As Andover pushed for at least a bonus point, they went close again when from a Carr-Smith cross kick, Fin and Bryn Waite were just unable to complete the score.

As time ran out, tempers frayed. Tom Erskine had a fine game in the engine room but when he was penalised for throwing a punch, Winchester took advantage.

With the last play of the game they dived over in the corner and that was that for Andover.

Afterwards director of Rugby Andy Waite said: "What an excellent game of rugby between two very good sides. We competed superbly everywhere, right to the end and I felt we were very unlucky not to get something from it. We go again next week at home to Havant in what I'm sure will be another tough test."