ANDOVER Rugby Club were once again brave in defeat on Saturday, losing 35-17 away to a strong London Exiles side.

The All Blacks have performed well so far this season, despite a tough start which has seen them face four away games out of their opening six fixtures.

They have also been hampered with key injuries and unavailability and this was the case once again against the Exiles.

Butthe team that made the journey put in a performance to be proud of, as they not only prevented what on paper seemed certain to be a heavy defeat, but gave the home side a test.

Such were the woes that the All Blacks travelled with only one replacement in giant prop Carl Sievewright and with a thrown together set of backs that were surely to be lambs to the slaughter.

Under the expert marshalling of backs player coach Sammy Froggett however, the young rearguard were having none of it and time and time again kept a very good home three quarter line at bay.

Up front was a different story as the Andover pack gave Exiles a torrid time, especially in the tight and this was crucial in helping the beleaguered backs stem the tide.

The forward dominance not only gave the team valuable respite as Andover were able to keep the ball for long periods, but it also allowed the team to gain good field position.

Alex Hibidge Tom Erskine Matt Moore and Nic Reed were outstanding as ball carriers and with the back row of Simon Preece, Ollie Lindridge and skipper Alex Morgan all lively around the park Andover always carried a threat.

Playing against strong wind and rain Andover went behind to two early tries and two penalties.

Things were made worse when hooker Ash Gait, who was otherwise superb, was yellow carded for indiscipline at the ruck.

Andover rallied, spurred by some brilliant defence from newcomer Ed Williams and youngster Charlie Waite and through their forwards willed themselves up the park to score a great try from Lindridge.

Andover fell further behind just before the break but with elements in favour felt they had literally weathered the storm.

In the second half Exiles added to their score, but Andover stormed back and when the lively Kieran Jenvey was prevented from scoring by foul play.

Andover had a lifeline with a penalty try converted by Waite.

A man down, it was Exiles turn to defend and Andover soon struck.

After some fine forward play the backs finally got some reward for their superb effort as Ben Hall fed Waite and his deft cross kick was well finished by Dave Catt.

It was too late to come back however as the whistle blew to let a grateful home side off the hook.

Coach Andy Waite said: “Make no mistake this would have been a tough game if we were at full strength, but with the trials we have had this week I was worried about what might happen, “But I learned a lot about the character of this group as some leaders have really started to emerge and we simply refused to lie down.

“What I liked the most was the forwards recognized what was going on and did everything they could to help. It was a real team effort and that’s what we are all about.”