1stXV Defeat Champions Coventry 22-10
Ampthill welcomed Champions Coventry to Dillingham Park on a glorious spring afternoon with a light breeze blowing in favour of Coventry in the first half.
Amps saw Jack Culverhouse start at prop and Gavin Williams at scrum half while hooker Gabriel Oghre and prop George Thornton (both dual reqistered from Wasps), Simon Pitfield (lock/flanker) and Mickey Wilson (utility back) came onto the bench.
The game began, as it would continue for much of the first half, with Ampthill retaining possession for long periods. In fact it was 6 minutes on the clock before a Coventry player touched the ball! Despite having the better of territory for much of the half and some extended red zone possession A's were unable to cross the whitewash.
Coventry were reduced to interception and/or or turnover breakouts from deep in their half which the home side's scramble defence managed to contain, until that is, the 36th minute, when the visitor's took advantage of a turnover to set up siege deep in the Ampthill 22 resulting in hooker Scott Tolmie crashing over from close range, fly half Will Maisey adding the simple extras leaving the score 0-7 at oranges.
Though much against the run of play the ruthless nature of the score showed just why Coventry are Champions of National 1, however, Amps connections were not discouraged, the scoreline did not reflect the balance of play and A's would have the benefit of the breeze in the second half.
Sure enough, almost straight from the kickoff the visitors were penalised at a breakdown in front of the posts and full back James Pritchard made no mistake with the 41st minute penalty goal. Just 4 minutes later Coventry were penalised again and Pritchard struck the ball cleanly between the posts to reduce the deficit to 1pt. Discipline issues were to become a significant feature of the game as the visitors got on the wrong side of the referee too frequently.
The 57th minute saw Maisey slot a penalty goal of his own which was almost immediately cancelled out by another from Pritchard on 61 minutes. The restart was recovered by Ampthill and a superb break from inside the home 22 eventually resulted in flanker Joe Bercis recording his 13th try of the season wide on the right on 63 minutes, Pritchard's conversion sliding past the post.
Trailing for the first time in the game Coventry became a touch fractious resulting in 2 yellow cards in close succession sandwiching a fine forwards try from Amps replacement prop George Thornton who crashed over from a goal line ruck on 70 minutes for an unconverted try.
With a 9 pt lead and a 2 man advantage A's were able to see out the remainder of the game even extending the lead on 78 minutes with another Pritchard penalty goal resulting in a 22-10 final score.
A fine performance to a man, including the replacements, from the home side, their heads didn't drop after the first half ended with a score that didn't reflect the balance of play while the second half most certainly did. Coventry were missing some of their bigger names but a team can only beat the opposition in front of them.
Ampthill Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented "It's not often that David beats Goliath or a Town beats a City, the week went well and I thought we responded to last weeks disappointment in the right way.
The starting team did a great job to turn round at half time 0 v 7 after playing up the hill and against the breeze. The bench were simply magnificent and really took the game to Coventry.
We were a little surprised that a club with Coventry's resources couldn't put a second team out but I guess it's the end of the season and we are all carrying a lot of injuries."
Ampthill Head Coach Paul Turner commented "After our cave in at Butts Arena before Christmas this was always a game firmly in our sights. To a man the team and the bench were outstanding. We folloed out game plan and although behind at half time stuck at it. The players deserve huge credit for beating a team as good as Coventry, we wish them the best of luck in the Championship next season."
Coventry Director of Rugby Roland Winter commented "We lacked accuracy, our discipline was poor and we didn't look after the ball which made it hard to compete, especially against a side like Ampthill on their own patch. We may have taken our foot off the gas but all credit to Ampthill who were better than us in every phase of the game. We must re-group for the remaining fixtures."
Tries:- Bercis (25), Thornton (78)
Penalties:- Pritchard (41, 45, 61, 78)
Tries:- Tolmie (36),
Conversions:- Maisey (37)
Penalties:- Maisey (57)
Half Time:- Ampthill 0 Coventry 7
Man of the Match:- Ampthill Pack and Replacments - All Outstanding
Referee:- Alexander Thomas
Attendance :- 738