Andover have been crowned champions of Snows Group Hampshire 1, edging out rivals Fordingbridge on points difference in the tightest of title races.

The All Blacks, as expected, battered bottom side Overton, winning 77-5, while ’Bridge relegated Southampton with a 73-12 home victory, writes Clive Downton.

’Bridge, who won their last 12 games of the season, will face Surrey League runners-up Old Tonbridgians at the Rec later this month in a play-off to decide who joins Andover in London 3 South-West. Fordingbridge RFC chairman, Ian Brown, was quick to pay tribute to the new champions. He said: “It has been a close and exciting title race all season, and Andover have just pipped us at the post in a photo-finish. They deserve their promotion and we hope to join them in the London leagues by winning the play-off.”

Against Southampton, ’Bridge were 21-0 ahead with seven minutes gone. The explosive start saw Ross Bealey going over for a try inside the first 30 seconds, and Mike Grimes scoring twice soon afterwards. Mat Norton kicked the three conversions to put ’Bridge in command.

Southampton were getting sliced open and after only 14 minutes Paddy Gogin went over for a fourth try as ‘Bridge secured the bonus point. Norton again converted.

Aaron Enoch, Southampton’s man-of-the-match, fired some spirit into struggling side, forcing his way over by the posts for a try that he converted himself. Alex Dubec gave Southampton a glimmer of hope with the visitors’ second try, but scores from Norton and Harry Hitchings meant that ’Bridge had built up a 42-12 lead at half-time. Five second-half tries by Steve Brown, James Greenwood, Norton, Bealey and the always hard-working Ed Douglas confirmed Southampton’s relegation. ’Bridge are next in action in the Hampshire Bowl quarter-final away to Ellingham & Ringwood on Easter Sunday.

Meanwhile, Millbrook finished in third after a home walkover in the fixture against fourth place United Services Portsmouth.

Solent University didn’t play, meaning Bognor were awarded a home walkover in their fixture. The University outfit finished fifth, while Romsey ended the season with a 34-32 win over Farnborough to ensure their survival.

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