Gosport and Fareham 28 Andover 33

Andover successfully negotiated another very tricky away day last Saturday at fourth-placed Gosport and Fareham, to continue their promotion push in Hampshire Counties one. 

Injury and unavailability once again led to several changes and Andover were not able to field a full bench, but such is the strength of their squad these days, it barely mattered as in the end they ran out fairly comfortable winners. 

After a long journey, Saxon Saftey-sponsored Andover arrived a little late and started slowly as the home side predictably came at them from the start.

Two early penalties put Gosport in front, but on eight minutes Andover shook off the journey, and when a lovely move involving Harvey Maloney, James Monck and Jake Dixon led to a penalty, Callum Hollinshead linked superbly with the excellent Tom Waite from a short lineout for the hooker to grab the first of his brace, with Rich Retallick converting superbly from wide out. 

Undaunted Gosport kept on pressuring Andover with a strong wind at their back, as the game ebbed and flowed, but after 25 minutes Tom Erskine was on hand to force his huge frame over after a series of forward drives to increase the Andover lead.

Almost immediately a poor error from Andover allowed the home side to score in the corner and when they lost Roman Barton Knott to injury, with halftime approaching Andover were forced to defend strongly.

After the break Andover had the wind in favour and with Ioan Gwynn Davies pulling the strings and James Hague making big meters, soon pressured the Gosport defence.

Smart work from young debutant James Wallace on the wing, led to a Stan North break and when he was held up Nic Reed was on hand to finish with Retallick again converting. 

With man of the match Callum Barber Starkey everywhere Andover began to dominate and from a scrum a superb backs move led to Maloney stretching over for a fine try in the corner with Retallick again converting superbly.

Gosport bravely answered back with a try of their own but with Trenton Small on for Monck, Andover scored the try of the game and the job looked done.

North broke powerfully from his own 22, fed Harrison Pape, and when his dash to the line was halted North was again on hand to feed Tom Waite for his second try, and with Retallick again doing the honours, the contest looked over.

Gosport however were having none of it and when Maloney saw yellow they took full advantage to pull a try back.

Ten minutes later with Maloney back, it was Retallick's turn to depart the proceedings and as the clock ran out Gosport scored with the last play of the game to grab themselves two bonus points, but leave Andover very happy with a maximum haul on the road once again.

Afterwards skipper Alex Hibdige was in buoyant mood. "It was always going to be a tough one today, it always is down here, but I thought the lads did very well in the end. Scrum and lineout were excellent and we scored a couple of brilliant tries. We've just got to keep it going now starting with Trojans at home in two weeks' time."