Loughborough Students 14 1stXV 36, Sat Oct 14, National 1
Ampthill make the 90 minute journey up the M1 to Loughborough University this Saturday to face the Students senior side on their 3G pitch.
Amps squad saw multiple changes from that which played against Fylde, up front Aleki Lutui moved to hooker with Karl Garside starting at tighthead, Paino Hehea returned at lock, Simon Pitfield at blindside and Syd Blackmore at Eighthman.
In the backs Elliot Reeder returned at inside centre while Karim Lynch moved to full back.
On the bench Scott Wright came in at hooker, Maama Molika returned from injury as lock & back row cover while Will Goodge returned to cover the outside backs.
For a change A's started well using forward drives to gain & maintain territory. On 7 minutes, after a series of red zone phases, lock Paino Hehea picked up and drove through the middle of a ruck to touch down to the left of the posts, fly half and otherwise excellent from the tee Josh Sharp missing a relatively easy conversion.
The 21st minute saw Ampthill kick a penalty to the corner, a trademark catch & drive followed but it was the decidedly unfamiliar face in these situations of full back Karim Lynch who came up the ball after the try was awarded, Sharp adding the extras.
As against Fylde the previous week the visitors coaches & spectators were now treated to a frustratingly similar loss of pattern for the next 40 minutes allowing Loughborough back into the game, the home side grasping the opportunity with both hands.
On 36 minutes Loughborough scored a try from close range through front row Owen Hills converted by fly half Tom Hardwick, the compliments from the spectators for the NFL block by the referee were not at all ironic.
Half time followed soon after leaving the score 7-12 to Ampthill whose connections were clearly concerned at Amps lack of accuracy and execution.
The second half began with A's still on the back foot but an infringement in the 47th minute gave Sharp the opportunity to extend the lead with a penalty goal.
Club captain Maama Molitika replaced Alex Woolford at lock and proceeded to show exactly what the visitor's had been missing with a Man of the Match performance despite only being on the field for 40 minutes.
Ampthill were increasingly in control up front but it took until the 67th minute for the next score which came after a series of forward drives offered Sharp the chance for an offload to the supporting replacement centre Will Goodge who crashed over to the left of the posts, Sharp adding the conversion.
With Amps back pressing in the hosts half scrum half Kevin Barrett exploited a miss-match in mid-field on 74 minutes and put wing Ali Crossdale in the clear to score a try on the right, Sharp successful with the kick.
A's were soon back in the Loughborough 22 but now another 'feature' of this season saw two successive errors concede 70m of territory. First the pack were rightly penalised for being too slow to a line out, the resulting penalty taking play beyond half way, then a second offence allowed the hosts to kick for the corner and gain a 5m line out opportunity. The resulting catch & drive was driven over for a try on 78 minutes scored by flanker Max Hill and converted by replacement Cam Dobinson.
The visitors had the last word however as, back on the home 22, Number 8 Syd Blackmore kept up his extraordinary scoring record by breaking the line and stepping the cover to score his 6th try of the season, converted by Sharp with the last kick of the game.
A curates egg of game with Ampthill good for the first quarter, poor in the second and third and unplayable in the last.
Loughborough's squad was reinforced by seven Leicester Tigers Development Squad players including the entire starting front row while 11 of the starting lineup were apparently making their debuts.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery comments "At this level we cannot afford to switch off for 5 minutes, never mind 40, there is much to work on."
Tries:- Hills (36), Hill (78)
Conversions:- Hardwick (37), Dobinson (79)
Tries:- Hehea (7), Lynch (21), Goodge (67), Crossdale (74), Blackmore (80)
Conversions:- Sharp (22, 68, 75, 80)
Penalties:- Sharp (49)