Eastleigh 24 Andover 27

It was real do-or-die stuff at Eastleigh Pirates last Saturday, as Saxon Safety sponsored Andover once again overcame very tough opposition with a late late show.

Andover went into the game knowing only a bonus point win would do if they were to maintain their promotion push but it proved anything but straightforward, against a home side that have struggled a bit this season, but came out all guns blazing for this one.

Played on a very soft boggy pitch Andover struggled to get their quick offloading game going at times and never really dominated the game in the way they can.

Behind a strong scrum and a lineout where Bryn Waite and Callum Hollinshead  were faultless under the excellent throwing of Tom Waite, Andover enjoyed plenty of possession but they were often wasteful with it and after ten minutes paid the price as Eastleigh struck a penalty to take the lead.

Fifteen minutes later it got worse for Andover as a fired up home side stretched their lead with a well taken converted try. 

Andover suddenly woke to the danger and for the last fifteen minutes of the half finally took some control.

From an excellent catch and drive Tom Erskine went over for the big second row's thirteenth try of the season and then a sweeping handling move involving man of the match Jake Dixon, Stan North and Mitch Needham, saw Jake Harwood finish well in the corner to level things at half time.

After the break Eastleigh again came at the 'All Blacks' hard but after a spell of defending Andover struck.

Another fine handling move involving Harrison Pape, Tom Waite and Niko Rowe, saw Needham gallop into the corner to at last give Andover the lead with Rich Retallick converting.

If anyone thought Eastleigh would roll over they were wrong. The home side through their experienced ten and twelve continued to cause problems and fifteen minutes later the drew level with a second try.

As the game went on Andover grew more tense knowing they needed a fourth try to get the win and bonus point they needed.

Unphased, young flanker Bryn Waite fielded a speculative kick in his own half and set off on a run past three defenders before giving a lovely scoring pass for Harwood to neatly finish his brace.

Surely it was done now, but no. Almost from the kick off a defensive howler let Eastleigh in again and they took full advantage to take the lead again with only minutes left.

Disaster loomed for Andover but with Tom Waite driving them forwards and Dixon playing like a man possessed they forced themselves up the field.

Big carries by Stan Pearson and Erskine gained good field position and when Eastleigh were penalised on their line, that man Ioan Gwynne Davies, reacted quickest with a tap and go to give Andover the last gasp win they so desperately needed.

All is set now for Saturday's home game against Havant where victory will almost certainly see Andover promoted.   

Afterwards Director of Rugby Andy Waite said ' The pitch was a great leveller today and these are the games where promotion is won or lost, not on sunny days at home. We dug deep and showed tremendous character, epitomised by the efforts of Rob Sutherland against his old club. We would love it if as many people from Andover as possible can come to the Goodship Saturday and help your boys finish the job.'