Andover 31 – 3 Bournemouth

Andover Rugby team started their 2023-24 campaign with a dominant victory over Bournemouth in a strange game at the Goodship ground.

Andover had come off a strong preseason which had included an eye-catching 50-point victory over Salisbury, who are a league above the All Blacks.

The 18-man squad included debutants Matt Green, who is a summer signing from Marlborough, and 18-year-old academy graduate George Goodridge who is fresh from scoring the winning try for London Irish in the U18s Premiership cup final.

Both players show an increasing depth to an already impressive Andover squad and all of The All-Blacks quality was on show from the first whistle at the Goodship.

Dictated by scrum-half Max Graham and stand off Rich Retallick, Andover settled into a nice early rhythm with the half-backs feeding the evergreen Nic Reed and James Monk for some strong carries.

The fantastic Roman Barton- Knott and Fergus Burtt made meters but Bournemouth stood resolute for the first 20 minutes.

Eventually, Andover’s pressure told when centre Stan North smashed his way through the centre of the Bournemouth defence for a splendid score which was excellently converted by Rich Retallick.

Bournemouth then scored their only points of the game with a penalty, but the visitors had a real issue at scrum time that was being exploited more and more by the notorious black pack.

Captain Alex Hibdige seemed to draw penalty after penalty from his opposite number, which allowed Andover to march their way up the pitch into the opposition's 22.

After some patient phases Andover eventually found their way back over the Bournemouth whitewash with Robbie Duncan crashing over from short range.

That was it for the first half with Andover up by 12-3. The second half began with Andover having to face an unexpected challenge.

Bournemouth elected to go uncontested at scrum time with their front-row options taken apart by Hibdige and Monk .

This also meant the visitors had to drop to 14 players but Andover quickly infringed which saw them receive a team yellow to even the numbers. This gave Bournemouth’s young side more of a chance to attack Andover, but they found little inroads into the Andover defence with some huge hits from Billy Pollard, Jake Dixon and Callum Barberstarkey.

Andover adapted to the change in scenario and soon found themselves back in the Bournemouth 22. This gave Tom Erskine, a regular try scorer last campaign, to score from the back of the driving maul after more fine work from the Andover forwards.

Man of the match Matt Green and the brilliant Bryn Waite were imperious in the lineout, a set piece that continued as normal throughout the game.

Their dominance gave the Andover backs the chance to put some sparkle on the result. Pape found an inch of space after a fine move.

He weaved through the Bournemouth defence to confirm the bonus point for the All blacks. Retallick converted giving Andover a comfortable margin.

The last 20 minutes of the game were rather disjointed. Andover had to tweak tactics and positions after some minor injuries and lost Robbie Duncan to a red card after the back row forward made head contact in a ruck.

Those who have been watching the World Cup will know that a mistimed clear-out or tackle is likely to receive a sanction with the new laws in place this season.

Despite the red card Andover still found time to score a fifth and final try with lightning winger Jake Harwood stepping through the Bournemouth back line to run a fine try in from halfway. Graham converted and the game was over – a 31-3 victory to start the campaign for Andover.