ANDOVER begun the new year with high hopes after beating Basingstoke in their own back yard last time out, but they were unable to repeat the result at Portsmouth despite another valiant effort, as they lost 12-3.

This Saturday, Andover have their first home game of 2020 whenthey entertain Old Georgians.

Last weekend, in tough muddy conditions and against big uncompromising opponents, the young Andover outfit could have feared the worst, but in the end, they dominated possession throughout they were disappointed not to come away with the win.

Andover began the game well with wing Alex Arter putting in a fine early hit to turnover possession.

The powerful Andover pack soon began to make inroads and before long number 8 Simon Preece’s fine play won Andover a penalty.

Soon after a high tackle on Tom Waite led to another penalty, but crucially Andover were wide with both efforts.

Andover continued to dominate with the hard running of Nic Reed, skipper Alex Hibdige and Conor Green causing the home defence real problems.

Then the first of two disasters struck.

In a rare Portsmouth attack, good defence from Tyler Gabriel forced Portsmouth to kick, but as Andover failed to clear, they seized on the loose ball to score.

Andover then lost scrum half Callum Smiles to a head injury and things seemed to be coming apart.

Rich Rettalick took over his role and academy product Myles Wakeham entered the fray for his first team debut.

Andover have built resilience in recent weeks and stormed back enjoying lots of possession in the danger zone.

Tom Waite and Reed combined to go close and with man of the match Fin Waite making turnovers and dominating the lineout, Andover looked sure to score.

A series of wrong options and poor finishing once again thwarted them however and as half time approached Rettalick added Andover’s only points with a well struck penalty.

Straight after the break another disaster struck as in the first move of the half, a simple interception allowed Portsmouth to complete the scoring.

Again Andover rallied and when a home player saw red for an altercation with centre Billy Pollard, there was real hope.

Both sides saw a yellow card as well, before youngster Bryn Waite replaced the excellent Wayne Jones, to add to Andover’s attacking momentum.

Andover pressed repeatedly, but as they did so with ten minutes to go came an incident that changed the course of the game.

A second Portsmouth player saw red for a very dangerous tackle on Arter, sparking a brawl in which Preece was unlucky to be the only player to join him.

The game degenerated from there as both sides reorganised and sadly from Andover’s point of view, despite pressing repeatedly, they could not break the stout home defence.

After the game Director of Rugby Andy Waite had mixed views of the day and said: "Obviously we are very disappointed not to at least get a bonus point as we played very well in the main.

"This was a tough away game and we fielded a very young side who stood up well to the challenge. That said, we didn’t get things right tactically at times, missed some guilt edged chances and gave away two silly scores and that’s the difference in close games."

"I thought the referee Simon Aldridge did well in a difficult outing and we have no complaints with our red card."