Alton 26 Andover 27

In a thrilling encounter that swung one way then the other and back again, Saxon Safety sponsored Andover just squeezed past a very determined Alton side at Anstey park last Saturday.

The home side are much improved of late and came into this one desperate for a win to move them out of relegation danger, but in the end a battling Andover side refused to accept a defeat that looked inevitable with ten minutes to go and stole the spoils.

From the kick off Alton suffered a blow losing a player in the first play to injury. Andover completely dominant in the set plays from the outset, soon took advantage with Rich Retallick on target from a scrum penalty.

If Alton's set piece was under pressure, they made up for it with a ferocious performance in the loose that seemed to unsettle Andover at times and they soon levelled with a penalty of their own.

At the breakdown Andover seemed off the mark and at times only some big tackling from Jake Harwood seemed to be able to stop their flow. 

The teams then exchanged further penalties before Andover got some traction and scored what seemed a decisive try.

From a scrum Robbie Duncan broke blind and from a set play Sean Higgins found Harrison Pape to score a fine try well converted by Retallick.

With Bryn and Fin Waite dominating the lineout Andover had plenty of ball and seemed to be in control, but the home side, roared on by a passionate crowd, had other ideas. From some very poor defending they ran in under the posts to level things again at the break.

In the second half with the slope in favour Andover fancied their chances but Alton capitalised on some uncharacteristic loose play to take the lead with two further penalties.

Andover just could not get any accuracy in their game and with just fifteen minutes to go Alton struck what seemed to be a killer blow with a well worked converted score.

Andover also lost Retallick to a yellow card to add to their woes and defeat looked inevitable.

It was as though someone flicked a switch however and Andover suddenly woke up to the danger they might lose.

Acting skipper Nic Reed grabbed his team by the scruff of the neck and at last Andover put together a string of attacks that made inroads.

From a good lineout drive, Tom Erskine powered through and when the ball was fed to powerful centre CJ Feirn, he was driven over the line by man of the match Stan Pearson to score a try, with Charlie Waite crucially converting from wide out.

With minutes left Andover sniffed a chance. That man Reed again led the charge and when he was hauled down short by a high tackle when almost certain to score, it seemed Andover would take the scrum and go for the pushover.

He had other ideas however and ran at the defence who were taken by surprise and after a couple of phases Higgins cooly put in Duncan to score under the posts for a winning try converted by Retallick.

After the game Director of Rugby Andy Waite had mixed feelings.

He said: "This is a tough place to come and they fought us every inch of the way, so we have to be pleased with the win. But our performance in the middle part of the game was not up to our standard, and we have to take a step back and look at that. We can't fault the character at the end though especially from our younger lads who just don't know when they are beaten."