Petersfield stretched their lead at the top of Hampshire Counties One to nine points with a 31-10 bonus-point win against Andover at Penns Place.

From the kick off the more than 250 spectators, including guests at the pre-match ladies’ lunch and a sizeable contingent from Andover, were treated to a fascinating match.

Both teams were somewhat slow to start given the top-of-the-table nature of the match,  with both teams weighing each other up.

For a large part of the first quarter Andover held Petersfield in their own half, and looked likely to score on one occasion, only for the ball to be carried a metre too far.

Eventually Petersfield’s discipline let them down, gifting a kickable penalty to Andover.

This score seemed to galvanise Petersfield’s resolve. A well directed and weighted kick from Nick Blumlein found right winger George Davis, who ran an angled line from his wing to touch down for an unconverted try.

Left winger Miles Sampson then benefited from a long miss-pass which he pouched to run in and score near the corner flag. Blumlein converted to make it 12-3 with 14 minutes of the half left.

Eight minutes later Liam Perkins received a yellow card for a late tackle. With Andover playing a tight forwards’ game and executing several winning counter rucks, Petersfield had to work hard to repel them and for the score to remain unchanged at half-time.

The second half started with 15 minutes of attrition, with both sides unable to make the breakthrough.

From a series of rucks Petersfield advanced 15 metres into Andover’s half and Blumlein spotted Sampson unmarked on the left wing.

Blumlein launched a long pass which Sampson happily carried 30 metres to score an unconverted try in the corner.

Petersfield’s forwards were now dominating the scrum and resisting the visitors at rucks and mauls, and five minutes later Liam Perkins dived over for a converted try.

Ten minutes later Andover’s pack won quick ball at a ruck. The visitors’ halfbacks deceived the home defence, while their centres moved from open to blindside and set their winger on a sprint for the corner to score near the touchline. The conversion made the score 24-10.

Petersfield won a scrum with five minutes left as the packs broke up. Perkins took the ball and barged his way through the Andover forwards, and had replacement winger Ethan Ogilvie speeding up on his outside shoulder. Perkins popped a pass into the hands of Ogilvie, who sprinted to the line to score. Blumlein converted successfully, with the ball bouncing over the centre of the crossbar.

After a workmanlike victory against a strong and talented Andover team, Petersfield will want to work on several areas of their game which seemed to have suffered from their long festive lay-off.

Chris Todd