1stXV 29 Esher 24, Sat Oct 29, 2016, Match Report
Ampthill welcomed Esher for their second visit to Dillingham Park on an overcast, dry, windless afternoon with excellent underfoot conditions.
Amps squad saw a number of changes, up front Aleki Lutui moved to hooker, Matt Collins rotates from the bench to prop, Matt Burke makes his first appearance of the season at blindside, Rob Bell moves to openside and Ben Earl returns from academy duties at eighthman.
In the backs Will Goodge returns at centre with Stef Jones moving to full back.
On the bench Ben Wilkinson is promoted from the 1881s to cover hooker while Maama Molitika rotates.
The first 15 minutes of the game saw A’s camped in the visitors 22 but they were unable to trouble the scoreboard despite multiple lineouts, scrums and free kicks in the red zone. Esher’s defence was organised but the hosts were visibly disappointed especially when, very much against the run of play the visitors broke out of defence on their 22 manufacturing a try out of nothing on 13 minutes wide on the left left through Cameron Gentles converted by James Lang.
Ampthill went further behind on 20 minutes when penalised at a ruck to the right of the posts outside their 22, Lang’s penalty goal increasing the deficit to 10 points.
Amps responded with a fine team try more or less straight from the kick off, flanker Rob Bell touching down with fly half Joe Tarrant adding the extras.
With A’s pack in the ascendancy at the scrummage and disrupting Esher’s lineout it wasn’t long before they were back in the visitors 22. More pressure eventually saw Tarrant ghosting between 2 defenders to the left of the posts for the touchdown which he converted on 31 minutes.
Neither side made much impression in the time remaining leaving the score 14-10 at oranges.
The second half began with the hosts on the attack resulting in a 46th minute unconverted try to wing Sam Baker who had a simple run in wide on the left after Esher ran out of defenders.
From looking comfortable Ampthill were soon on the back foot as Esher’s broken field runners, particularly their wings, caused much confusion in the home defence.
On 62 minutes Andrew Garner finished another breakaway from defence try being in support to run under the sticks, Lang adding the extras.
Back on the attack A’s were awarded a penalty outside the visitors 22 when they were penalised at a breakdown, Tarrant striking the ball between the posts.
In the 68th minute Lang touched down and converted his own try after another searing break from their wing regaining the lead 22-24 with 10 minutes or so to play.
The home side responded with a fine team try from captain & lock Ben Gulliver on 75 minutes, converted by Tarrant to restore Ampthill’s 5 point lead and secure a bonus point.
Esher threw everything at Amps for the last 5 minutes but when the ball rolled into touch on Amps 5m line after a last play of the game move broke down the referee blew for no side.
Though not perfect this was a far better performance from A’s though Esher must be disappointed that they only got a losing bonus point from the game, their 5th from 6 losses this season!
Head Coach Paul Turner commented “This was a game which could have gone either way but we dug out a result despite going behind twice. Our pack was outstanding with Ben Earl and Matt Beesley the standout players. Esher are a smart well coached side, they’ll be disappointed at the result but I’m sure their time will come.”
Tries: Bell (22), Tarrant (31), Baker (46), Gulliver (75)
Conversions: Tarrant (23, 32, 76)
Penalty: Tarrant (65)
Tries: Gentles (13), Garner (62), Lang (68)
Conversions: Lang (14, 63, 69)
Penalty: Lang (20)
Half time: 14-10
Man of the match: Ben Earl/Matt Beesley