1stXV v Hull Ionians, Sat Mar 25, 15:00, Match Preview
Ampthill welcome Hull Ionians to Dillingham Park on Saturday for another chapter in the recent rivalry between the two clubs.
Hull Ionians was formed in 1989 by the merger of Hull and East Riding with Ionians. Hull & East Riding were formed 1901 while Ionians formation was a little later, in 1926. H&ER played at a variety of locations before a merger in the early ’70s with Hull Spartans and an eventual move to the Circle. H&ER were one of Yorkshire’s leading teams providing many players to the County side. The advent of leagues in 1987 found H&ER playing in North 1.
Ionians had chosen a different path, one which saw them own their ground, Elloughton Road, and clubhouse with a thriving mini & youth system and a tradition of developing excellent players who went on to play at higher levels for other clubs. In 1987 Ionians 1stXV were playing in Yorkshire 3, some 6 levels below H&ER.
By 1994 Hull Ionians had negotiated the sale of the Elloughton ground for development for housing. The arrangement with the developer saw them acquire a new ground literally adjacent to the old one and construct a superb clubhouse facility known as Brantingham Park.
Hull Ionians were promoted to National 3 North (now National 2 North) in 2002, relegated the following season and promoted again in 2005. In 2013 the cycle was repeated as they were promoted to National 1 only to be immediately relegated and promoted again.
It is admirable that the club largely kept faith last season with the squad that saw them promoted, relegated and promoted again. Renowned for having a strong forward pack with an excellent set piece they have this year added an attacking dimension through pacy backs.
Ionians have slipped down the National 1 table in recent weeks having won just 1 of their last 9 games. They lie 15th, with a played 25 won 6, drawn 1 record, however, they have 7 losing bonus points from those 18 losses.
Last week in a crunch game at home to relegation rivals Blaydon, they came back from 0-17 behind at half time to secure a 17-17 draw.
Ampthill lost at Coventry 29-19 last week in what what was a poor performance, particularly in the first half after which they trailed 22-7.
Amps squad sees a number of changes, up front Joe Bercis returns from injury at openside with Will Allman moving to blindside. In the backs Kevin Barrett, Pete Weightman and Elliot Reeder return at scrum half, wing and outside centre respectively. The bench sees Loti Molitika & Sam Hanks rotate and the return of England U20 Grand Slam winning scrum half Alex Mitchell.