1stXV Win 33-38 In Titanic Battle With Plymouth Albion
Ampthill welcomed Plymouth Albion to Dillingham Park on an overcast and drizzly afternoon which brightened up. Despite heavy rain in the previous 24 hours the pitch was in good condition with a moderate breeze blowing in favour of Ampthill in the first half.
Amps starting XV was strengthened by the return of Tongans Aleki Lutui and Maama Molitika from injury although both were supposed to play only the first half. Kevin Barrett started at scrum half while Pete Weightman made a rare start at inside centre.
A's went behind to an early try scored by Albion fullback Matt Shepherd on 5 minutes who danced through the defence in front of the posts after sustained pressure by the visitors. Fly half Harvey Skinner adding the extras, the first of four conversions for a 100% day with the boot.
The hosts responded by taking the game to Plymouth up front with the back row prominent. On 19 minutes the home side scored from a trademark catch & drive after Albion had been penalised in midfield, the resulting penalty kicked deep into their 22 by fly half Lawrence Rayner whose kicking from hand was a feature of his best performance in a maroon & gold jersey. Flanker Joe Bercis came up with ball and wing James Pritchard added the conversion.
The visitors indiscipline was a feature of the second quarter, gifting field position to Ampthill while Amps lack of concentration was equally significant as they gifted tries to Albion through turnovers.
The first came on 29 minutes when the home side failed to defend their ruck, Plymouth kicking through a loose ball when deep inside their 22 and winning the length of the field footrace to recycle the ball for lock Sam Holmes to score a converted try to the right of the posts.
Just 3 minutes later A's responded with a try from Captain & flanker Billy Johnson under the posts after another penalty had been kicked into the 22 and the hosts won the resulting lineout.
Then with half time approaching yet another penalty, & lineout saw centre Weightman touch down a converted try after the forwards made space in front of the posts leaving the score 21-14 at oranges.
The second half began as the first with a Plymouth try, this time with Ampthill on the attack on 44 minutes, fly half Skinner telegraphed a miss pass from Barrett and ran 70m to touch down a try he converted himself half way to the right touchline.
10 minutes later the visitors took the lead for the third time in the game with another converted try for Shepherd from a turnover at an Ampthill ruck.
The next 10 minutes of the game saw two players stretchered off, one for each side and proved to be the turning point of the game as Amps dominated the last quarter producing some of the best rugby seen this season.
A's starved Plymouth of the ball ball in the last quarter, Weightman adding his second try after a 29 phase attack saw Pritchard's delicate chip roll to the right corner flag, Pritchard unable to add the extrsa from the touchline.
Then, deep in time added on the hosts won a turnover in their own 22 and moved the ball the length of the field, this time a 37 phase move finishing with Pritchard ghosting through a gap on the visitors 22 to score under the posts and convert his own try.
The home side secured the kick off and ran out time with another series of phases to secure a famous victory much enjoyed by the vocal spectators from both sides.
Plymouth Albion Head Coach Kieran Hallett comments "It was a fair result, we scored three tries against the run of play and our discipline in the first half was simply not good enough. Ampthill deserved to win as they starved us of the ball in the last quarter."
Ampthill Head Coach Paul Turner comments "Despite presenting Plymouth with three tries we produced an outstanding performance against a very good side. At 21-28 in the second half I thought we were in trouble but a huge display in the last quarter saw us turn the game around by playing as well as we have all season. This was not a game for coaches but two excellent sides went at each other in a real physical contest.
Our pack to a man were outstanding, Kev Barrett was my Man of The Match while Lawrence Rayner controlled the tempo in what was his best game for Ampthill"
Tries:- Bercis (19), Johnson (32), Weightman (70), Pritchard (78)
Conversions:- Pritchard (20, 33, 40, 79)
Tries:- Shepherd (5, 54), Holmes (29), Skinner (44),
Conversions:- Skinner (6, 55, 30, 45)
Half Time:- Ampthill 21 Plymouth Albion 14
Man of the Match:- Kevin Barrett, Ampthill
Referee:- Daniel Collins
Attendance :- 297