1stXV 7 Cambridge 8, Sat Oct 21, National 1
Ampthill welcomed Cambridge to Dillingham Park on a bright, very windy autumn afternoon with passing showers, underfoot conditions were good. Amps squad saw three changes in the pack, two in the backs and 3 on the bench including the loss of leading try scorer flanker Syd Blackmore who failed a pre-game fitness test.
With gusts strong enough to make one struggle to stand upright the wind was a major factor, Amps had the benefit of the quartering crosswind in the first half, the visitors in the second.
The first quarter saw Ampthill dominant, the pack in control in the tight and maul while the loose exchanges were more even. Amps were deep in the Cambridge red zone on multiple occasions but failed to capitalise while the vistors defence was outstanding throughout repeatedly stopping the home forwards on the gain line.
On 9 minutes number 8 Maama Molitika broke Cambridge’s defensive line following multiple red zone phases, fly half Josh Sharp adding the extras.
Gradually Cambridge came back into the game, keeping hold of the ball with excellent game management to eventually force the hosts back into their own half for much of the last 10 minutes of the second quarter.
Turning round 7-0 up Ampthill’s connections would have been concerned at the size of the lead, the poor decision making and the lack of control.
The visitors dominated the second half both in territory and possession, a marked feature being their excellent game control from the half backs and inside centre which stood in complete contrast to the frankly, shambolic display from their opposite numbers.
It was Amps turn to show their defensive qualities and they held out until the 71st minute when a missed tackle in mid-field produced a 2 on 1 and a simple try from the Cambridge outside centre Albert Portsmouth, the conversion attempt, despite having a direct tailwind and being just 10m to the left of the posts, slid wide.
A’s supporters sigh of relief from the downwind terraces appeared temporarily to cancel out the gale!
However, having been dominant at the scrummage for much of the game the home side was unaccountably penalised at a scrum following the restart, despite the visitor’s replacement prop visibly going backwards. The resulting penalty saw another fine kick from hand take play back into the home 22 from where yet more indiscipline gave a simple penalty goal chance, replacement Jack Green making no mistake to give Cambridge the lead 7-8.
There was time for the restart but another unacceptable error saw the kick not go 10m and hand possession to the visitors who moved play back into the hosts 22 from where Ampthill failed to escape before no side.
Although this was as poor an Ampthill performance as has been seen in recent seasons nothing should be taken away from Cambridge, they throughly deserved the win.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “We were very clear with the squad during the week that Cambridge would be a real threat. After a frustrating first half which saw us waste multiple opportunities we lost focus in the second half, took multiple wrong options and deserved to lose. Despite the forwards working their backsides off to get us field position we kicked away good possession and our game control was non existent even though we’d talked pre-match precisely about these situations.”
Ampthill:- Tries:- Molitika (9) Conversions:- Sharp (10)
Cambridge Tries:- Portsmouth (71), Penalties:- Green (78)
Man of the Match :- Matt Hema, Cambridge