Rugby defies rain-soaked pitches

Andover’s Simon Preece, right, gets to grips with an Isle of Wight opponent.

Andover’s Simon Preece, right, gets to grips with an Isle of Wight opponent.

First published in Sport Hampshire Chronicle: Photograph of the Author by , Rugby correspondent and sub-editor

Snows Group Hampshire 1 was the most productive league in the county, with five games defying the awful weather conditions and rain-soaked pitches.

Team Solent took full advantage of the opportunity to play and defeat neighbours Southampton 46-28 to move back to the top of the table – a position they last held on November 23.

Pitch conditions at Test Park were surprisngly good, considering the amount of rain that fell on it 48 hours before kick-off.

However it was an extremely windy afternoon which made for very tricky conditions for both sides, who both crossed the line on a regular basis, with the students making more of their conversion opportunities.

Solent tries came from Ben Paige, Ben Hoskings (2), Pete Toland, skipper George Knight, George Scott, Ryan Keary and fly half Rob Walters who also added eight points with the boot.

Solent’s Matt Bishop said: “We were pleased with the bonus point win which sees us back on top spot for the time being, with Fordingbridge versus Millbrook being postponed.

Andover shrugged off the disappointment of the recent defeat to title rivals Fordingbridge as they ‘stormed’ to victory against a brave but outgunned Isle of Wight side.

Despite high winds and rain Andover produced some devastating rugby to run in 13 unanswered tries – dominating in all phases of the game.

Stand-in skipper Marc Wilding led the way on his 40th birthday with a well taken hat-trick of tries and fellow back row Simon Preece followed suit.

There was a brace for popular Fijian Paul Tuinasakea and two also for Callum Staff.

Dave Catt, Jack Stott and Rich Retallick also weighed in and there was a fine first team debut try for colts’ scrum half Dan Farr. Retallick added three conversions, but also claimed the strangest hat-trick of the day – striking the uprights with three other attempts in a dreadful afternoon for kickers.

Andover are well placed with a game in hand as the title race looks like going all the way to the wire.

US Portsmouth got back into the leading three with a 22-8 success at Overton.

The town of Romsey has suffered more than most in the area with the persistent rain but rugby was still played at the Sports Centre.

The home side pulled further away from the relegation zone, crossing the line four times in their 22-19 victory over Overton. Romsey’s tries came from Ollie Heighway, Matt Easton, Adam Knibbs and Phil Cunningham with Heighway making one conversion.

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