1stXV 50 Blaydon 14, Match Report, National 1
Ampthill welcomed Blaydon to Dillingham Park on a dry, cold, windless afternoon with the sun occasionally breaking through the low stratus. Recent rain had softened the pitch leaving an ideal playing surface.
20pts from fly half Joseph Tarrant and a brace of tries for both wing Sam Baker and hooker Aleki Lutui were the highlights of the game.
Amps squad this week saw multiple changes, first and foremost in the pack A’s supporters were delighted to see a former favourite. Tight head prop Ross Davies returned to the fold, having played in the Championship and in the USA since his last spell in maroon & amber. Joining Ross, lock Josh Walker and flankers Loti Molitika & Rob Bell all returned to the starting XV while Ben Earl moved to Eighthman.
In the backs, dual registered Alex Mitchell made his first start at scrum half while Mickey Wilson started at inside centre.
On the bench, hooker Ben Wilkinson returned, prop Matt Collins rotated, scrum half Gavin Williams returned and there was a league debut for centre Orisi Nawakaliva.
Ampthill came out of the blocks in determined mood retaining possession for much of the first 10 minutes during which Tarrant converted a straightforward penalty goal in the 5th minute. On 13 minutes with Amps again pressing in the Blaydon half Tarrant took a short pass on the visitors 22 wide on the right and brushed off three attempted tackles before adding the extras from within a couple of metres of the touchline.
During the next 15 minutes or so Blaydon came back into the game through their forward pack, retaining extended possession themselves but lacking the cutting edge necessary in the red zone to trouble the scoreboard despite being adjudged ‘held up’ over the line on one occasion. Meanwhile, A’s had a number of chances deep in the visitors 22 but the visitor’s catch & drive defence was up to the challenge.
The home side eventually broke the deadlock on 30 minutes with a fine try from Baker who came off his wing to join the attack, broke a tackle and crashed over for an unconverted try midway between the right hand post and the corner flag.
The hosts were soon back on the scoreboard in the 36th minute after a 60m move which went though multiple phases with scrum half Alex Mitchell in support to take the final pass and touch down to the left of the posts, Tarrant adding the extras leaving the score 22-0 at oranges.
The second half saw Ampthill continue where they’d left off with centre Samuel Hanks breaking a tackle in front of the posts to touch down in the 45th minute after fine build up play followed on 52 minutes by a mid-field turnover resulting in an opportunity for Baker to add his second wide on the left after beating the last man on the outside, Tarrant converting both tries.
Trailing 36-0 after 54 minutes Blaydon threw caution to the wind and ran the ball from everywhere scoring a fine try in the 57th minute through centre Thomas Bramwell converted by replacement Ryan Foreman.
With several replacements now on the field for both sides the standard of play might have dropped but not today, a penalty against Blaydon was kicked to the corner in the 61st minute and the resulting catch & drive was successful with hooker Aleki Lutui coming up with the ball, Tarrant again adding the extras.
Blaydon weren’t done though and returned the compliment in the 73rd minute with an almost identical, penalty, lineout, catch & drive try scored by replacement hooker Cameron Bell, Foreman adding the extras.
There were chances for both sides in the remaining game time but the score remaind 50-14 in the hosts favour.
Ampthill Head Coach Paul Turner commented “A very pleasing team performance, particularly in the first half when we were physical, smart and accurate. Our back row were impressive with Loti Molitika having his best game in an Ampthill shirt but Alex Mitchell’s performance deserved the man of the match accolade. Blaydon are not a bad side as others will discover when the ground gets heavier.”
Tries:- Tarrant (13), Baker (30, 52), Mitchell (36), Hanks (45), Lutui (61, 69)
Conversions:- Tarrant (14, 37, 46, 54, 62, 70)
Penalty Goals:- Tarrant (5)
Tries:- Bramwell (57), Bell (73)
Conversions:- Foreman (58, 74)
Half Time:- Ampthill 22 Blaydon 0
Man of the Match:- Alex Mitchell
Referee:- Jamie Leahy