Andover 57 Gosport and Fareham 17

Andover produced their best display of the season last Saturday, to run out comfortable winners over top-of-the-table rivals Gosport and Fareham.

Both sides came into the game with only one defeat in the season so far, but Gosport had no answer to the returning Ollie Carr Smith at fly half and the outstanding pace and finishing skill of man of the match Jake Harwood, who helped himself to four tries.

Indeed so good was Harwood, it's hard to choose which of his scores was the best as he tormented Gosport all afternoon.   

Playing up the slope in the first half skipper Alex Hibdige's Andover began well, but were soon shocked by the visitors when at scrum time they were unusually sent backwards and conceded a penalty.

Andover, sponsored by Saxon Safety, soon recovered their poise and when a monstrous 50-22 kick from Carr Smith gave Andover a 5m lineout, Bryn Waite combined with brother Tom to send the hooker over for the opening score, superbly converted by Rich Retallick. 

Gosport pushed hard to level, but when Bryn Waite stole their lineout on Andover's line, they were soon to rue the missed opportunity.

Andover countered and when Gosport returned a long kick, the first of Harwood's wonder finishes lit up the large home crowd. He collected a difficult bounce, managed to keep his feet and set off on a mazy run to score under the posts, with Retallick again adding the conversion.

Stung into action Gosport roared back at Andover and after a series of phases from their powerful forwards they eventually managed to dive over from a ruck.

Not long after they were at it again but some fine defending notably from Jake Dixon, Tom Erskine and the excellent Fin Waite kept them at bay.

Andover sensed that if they could match the visitors up front they had too much for them in the backs and with Max Graham and Carr Smith orchestrating things, they began to move the ball with real purpose.

As Gosport began to wilt Harwood struck again. Finding a gap on half way he streaked away and when Harvey Maloney's support run took away two defenders, Harwood outpaced the remaining cover to again give Retallick an easy conversion.

At the break Andover changed their set up slightly with Stan Pearson coming on at prop, Nic Reed to lock and Dixon to number eight and with the slope in favour the result was almost instantaneous. 

The extra power nullified the Gosport forward threat and the backs had a field day.

Callum Barber Starkey came on for the injured Tom Waite and his pace around the park in support of the backs was too much for Gosport.

After set of phases, quick hands from Dixon and Carr Smith set the superb Harrison Pape in for a fine try, before he in turn did the same, for Maloney to finish neatly with Retallick converting.

Arlo Matley entered the fray on the wing as Andover continued to press.

Gosport would not lay down however and soon scored a converted try of their own after Pearson saw yellow, but this simply stung Andover into more attacking play.

Despite being a man down they terrorised the visitors with slick interplay and Harry Scobie took full advantage to finish strongly. 

Soon after Fin Waite went clear and was felled by a high tackle when certain to score, but with no yellow or penalty try forthcoming, Gosport just about clung on in the game.

With Pearson back on Andover pushed even harder and Gosport finally broke.

Struggling to cope with the pace and power of Andover, tempers frayed and when an alleged punch saw a Gosport player sent off  the game was up.

From the resultant penalty Harwood produced an incredible finish from a Carr Smith cross kick and then returned the compliment unselfishly feeding Carr Smith to finish, after another incredible break.

Retallick converted both before Harwood finished things off with another fine finish again from a Carr Smith kick through.

Afterwards, director of rugby, Andy Waite said: "What a performance that was. Gosport are a strong side but we played some fantastic stuff at times. Obviously, Jake and Ollie were outstanding but the whole side was excellent, and we ran them ragged. I thought despite a couple of controversial moments, the ref Rhys Cleary controlled the game very well and when he missed something, it was nice to see the chivalrous Nic Reed on hand to help him award a try to Gosport."