1stXV Secure Good Win Against Local Rivals
Ampthill 22 Bishops Stortford 12
Ampthill welcomed Bishops Stortford to a wet, cold but windless Dillingham Park for another chapter in the long history of games between the two clubs at 1stXV level.
Amps squad saw 3 changes up front with Toby Trinder returning at Loosehead, former regular James Fish back at Hooker and Ben Gulliver rotating to Lock, in the backs Stef Liebenberg returned at Scrum Half while Fraser Strachan made his first start at centre. The bench saw Josh Taylor return to cover Hooker, George Thorton rotate to Prop, Syd Blackmore return from injury to cover the back row while Gavin Williams & Pete Weightman rotated providing cover scrum half and outside backs.
Games between the two sides are usually close, competitive affairs and this one was no exception. A’s had the better of the opening exchanges culminating in the 12th minute with a fine try scored by wing Sam Baker wide on the left after a series of forward phases on the right in the visitors red zone had created space, full back James Pritchard adding the extras from 5m in from the touch line.
It took 22 minutes for the hosts to extend their lead through a simple Pritchard penalty goal from in front of the posts after Stortford had been penalised at a breakdown. In between the home side had the better of territory & possession but failed to capitalise as a number of opportunities went begging due to great defence from the Blues rearguard and inaccuracy at critical moments from Ampthill. In particular Stortford were able to nullify Amps staple catch & drive. Behind the scrum both sides were well organised and there was little excitement as neither side seemed able to conjure line breaks with any regularity.
The set piece was pretty even all game but A’s backrow stood out in the loose with Man of the Match blindside flanker Will Allman at the heart of everything. The disappointment of seeing home lock Billy Johnson leaving the field with injury was tempered with the pleasure of seeing flanker Syd Blackmore return from a 3 month injury break, number 8 Maama Molitika moving into the second row.
The second half began with the hosts leading 10-0 but the visitors showed more ambition, making ground in mid-field and taking advantage of Ampthill’s indiscipline to maintain pressure through field position. The 49th minute saw them score an unconverted try wide on the right after patient pressure in the red zone finally drew an error from Amps defence, wing Ryan Hutler crossing wide on the right after neat interplay.
A’s took just 6 minutes to respond with Baker crossing wide on the left after a cross field kick from fly half Lawrence Rayner put him 1 on 1 with the last defender, Pritchard nailing the touchline conversion.
Another 20 minutes of stalemate followed as both sides couldn’t hold on to the ball leading to turnovers in promising positions interpersed on 70 minutes with the unusual site of a straight red card for visiting back row forward Dan Leo who was sent for an early bath after the referee had consulted with his assistant following a lineout inside the Bishops Stortford 22.
The hosts finally broke the deadlock on 76 minutes when replacement scrum half Gavin Williams broke blind from a red zone ruck and skipped over the whitewash only for Pritchard to miss what appeared to be an easier conversion!
The visitors, despite playing 14 against 15, struck back with the last play of the game as they drove a 5m lineout over for a time added on try scored by lock James Apperley and converted by replacement Thomas Banks.
Ampthill produced a workmanlike performance but will perhaps consider they should have secured a bonus point. Bishops Stortford were, as usual, uncompromising opponents who deserve their level 3 status.
Ampthill Head Coach Paul Turner commented “A good win against tough local rivals who have shown in their first season in National 1 that they are a force to be reckoned with, with large group of good young players who are well coached. There are positives we can take despite potentially leaving a bonus point on the field”
Tries:- Baker (12, 55), Williams (76)
Conversions:- Pritchard (12, 56)
Penalties:- Pritchard (34)
Tries:- Hutler (49), Apperley (79)
Conversions:- Banks (80)
Half Time:- Ampthill 10 Bishops Stortford 0
Man of the Match:- Will Allman, Ampthill
Referee:- Mr Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts
Attendance :- 155
Penalties Against – 6
Lineouts Won – 13
Lineouts Lost – 1
Scrums Won – 8
Scrums Lost – 0
Penalties Against – 7
Lineouts Won – 8
Lineouts Lost – 4
Scrums Won – 8
Scrums Lost – 0
Red Card – Leo, 70