Ampthill Triumph In Top Of The Table Clash
Old Elthamians arrived at a dry, sunny Olney Field with a strong westerly wind to find a dusty pitch, more rain please.
The top of the table clash resulted in Ampthill’s biggest crowd of the season. Going in to the game both sides were chasing promotion, equal on points (91) and separated only by virtue of Old Elthamians having won one more game (18 of 24 played). With both sides claiming to have had a great week’s preparation both sets of coaches would have tried to minimise the pressure but everyone involved and watching knew the importance of today’s result for prospect of playing in the Championship next season.
If must of been deja vue for OE’s DoR Gavin Lach as his side conceded two early tries just as they had in the same fixture last season as he’d mentioned in his match preview.
First Amps tight head Matt Collins came up with the ball after a signature lineout, catch & drive on 5 minutes, full back James Pritchard’s touch line conversion attempt had the legs but not the direction. Then, in the 10th minute, centre Sam Hanks danced through the entire visitor’s defence from the halfway line touching down under the posts for Pritchard to add the conversion.
At this stage A’s were winning the collisions and secure in both lineout and set piece but Old Elthamians were not top of the table by chance and they soon began to come back into the game forcing the home side to defend for long periods.
On 17 minutes, fly half Joe Carlisle kicked a simple penalty goal from in front of the posts inside the hosts 22 and then added a second in the 25th minute from further out reducing the deficit to one score. Ampthill still looked threatening when they had the ball but the game was now evenly balanced.
Elthamians had their chances in the second quarter but knocked on when over the line on one occasion and dropped the final pass when clear on another meanwhile Amps defence was stepping up securing two red zone turnovers to stifle other opportunities.
The killer blow came on the stroke of half time when quick ball from the top of an A’s lineout inside OE’s 22 resulted in multiple phases culminating in Number 8 Maama Molitika crashing over from close range, Pritchard again adding the extras leaving the score 19-6 at oranges.
The second half saw a long period of visitor’s dominance of territory & possession but the home side’s defence was up to the task, time and again stifling Old Elthamians even when they had multiple red zone phases. On 60 minutes however, OE’s were penalised for off side at a ruck and Pritchard struck the resulting penalty goal to take Amps more than 2 scores clear.
The hosts introduced a number of players from the bench which signalled a change with Ampthill’s scrum now dominant and the fresh legs regaining control in mid-field. The game had become fragmented with frequent stoppages for treatment to injured players before the 75th minute saw Amps close out the match when replacement prop Ralph Adams-Hale showed great strength and leg drive to touch down under the posts after multiple red zone phases, fly half Josh Sharp successful with the conversion.
Just 4 minutes later with the visitors now throwing the ball around A’s collected a chip through just outside Old Elthamians 22, Sharp returning the chip which bounced kindly for centre Olly Morris to touch down behind the posts, Sharp adding the extras leaving the score 36-6 at no side.
Ampthill produced at 80 minute performance just when it was needed to move 5 points clear at the top of National 1 with 5 games to play. Every game is crucial through the end of the season but the home match against 3rd placed Rosslyn Park in a fortnight is another one to look forward to.
Ampthill Head Coach Paul Turner comments “An outstanding squad performance, I was particularly pleased with our defence, at it’s best at crucial times. Our set piece got on top and we scored 5 tries while conceding none against our biggest rivals. This was a great for Ampthill Rugby Club.”
Old Elthamians Director of Rugby Gavin Lach comments “We had opportunities but didn’t take them, disappointing to drop the ball in the act of scoring 3 times, you cannot win against good opposition if you don’t take your chances. Ampthill were the better side on the day.”
Tries:- Collins (5), Hanks (9), Molitika (40), Adams-Hale (75), Morris (79)
Conversions:- Pritchard (10, 40, 70), Sharp (76, 80)
Penalty Goals:- Pritchard (60)
Penalty Goals:- Carlisle (17, 25)
Half Time:- Ampthill 19 Old Elthamians 6
Referee:- Mr Alexander Thomas
Man of the Match:- Sam Hudson, Ampthill
Scrums Won 4 6
Scrums Lost 0 2
Lineouts Won 11 11
Lineouts Lost 2 2
Penalties Against 9 14
Sin Bin 0 2