Ampthill Hold Off Second Half Fight Back From Blues To Win The Battle Of Bedfordshire
Amps arrived at Goldington Road on Boxing day afternoon to face a strong Bedford side that lay 3rd in the Championship and play in front of more than double the number of spectators than ever before.
Over 4500 in the crowd made for a splendid occasion, we must therefore, thank Blues directors, management, support staff, volunteers, players and supporters for their outstanding hospitality and friendship on what we hope will be the first of many fixtures between the two clubs in the modern era.
The occasion (or perhaps the holiday festivities) appeared to have affected both teams with a scrappy, inaccurate start from the visitors, an especially wobbly line out and inaccurate passing making for a somewhat disappointing initial spectacle.
Gradually Ampthill began to settle down with their scrummage in particular beginning to trouble the home side, a pattern that was to last for much of the game.
Amps camped in the hosts 22 and were awarded a scrum just to the left of the posts. George De Cohti, who brought real energy to the scrum half role, received the ball from number 8 Maama Molitika holding Bedford’s defence for just long enough to spin the ball left to right with full back and former Blues legend James Pritchard joining the line off loading out of the last defenders tackle to release wing Spencer Sutherland who touched down wide on the right for an unconverted try.
A’s were immediately back on the front foot when awarded a penalty inside their own half. De Cohti’s quick tap and 40m break saw Captain and blind side flanker Billy Johnson, another former Blues player, in support to take the pass and score by the right corner flag, Pritchard’s conversion sliding wide.
The hosts redoubled their effort, attacking straight from the kick off only to knock on in front of the dugout. Wing Sutherland recovered the ball and showed a clean pair of heels to the home defence racing from inside his own half to touch down to the right of the posts on 27 minutes, Pritchard adding the extras.
Bedford weren’t lying down but the visitors were enjoying the benefit of the slope and had the Blues under constant pressure. With Ampthill once more camped in the hosts red zone their forward pack sucked in the defence with forward drives from prop & former Blues favourite Soane Tonga’uiha, Molitika and lock Henri Williams. Eventually the home defence opened up in the middle for centre Sam Hanks to touch down under the posts, Pritchard converting.
At this point with the scoreboard reading 0-24 many of Amps connections and supporters may well have begun to believe Santa Claus had arrived a day late!
Bedford weren’t done yet, taking advantage of some sloppy handling in A’s 22, Blues moved the resulting ball through the hands for wing Joe Green to touch down wide left, fly half Jake Sharp’s excellent conversion bisecting the posts leaving the score 7 v 24 at oranges.
Having the benefit of the slope and the energy introduced by the just-before-halftime score the hosts began the second half with their tails up leading to replacement wing Pat Tapley’s early try, converted by Sharp.
The home side’s connections started to make changes bringing on former Ampthill mini, youth and 1stXV player Dean Adamson for his 100th appearance for Bedford. Adamson’s introduction was always likely to produce fireworks and it proved the case as he took advantage by kicking out of his own 22 and winning a length of the field footrace to score within seconds of his appearance on the pitch, Sharp adding the extras to bring the Blues right back into it at 21-24.
Amps could have folded under the pressure now exerted by the Blues but A’s character and application has been tested many times this season . First the visitors had a try denied, then, guest centre Villi Hakalo scored wide on the left after replacement scrum half Gavin Williams had combined with fly half Mickey Wilson to create the space, Wilson’s excellent conversion restoring a two score lead.
With both benches emptied, Ampthill proved they weren’t going to roll over and were more than holding their own when Sharp saw the space, kicked the ball down field for Tapley to scored his second try, Sharp converting making it a 3pt game once again.
The last five minutes could have been a real nail biter for Amps connections and supporters but A’s defence held up well and, after Blues were shunted backwards at an 84th minute scrum inside the visitors 22, Ampthill secured the ball and kicked dead for the referee to signal no side.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “A wonderful occasion in front of an extraordinary crowd for a ‘friendly’. Despite some tired bodies much good rugby was played by both sides and the 9 try feast provided great entertainment. We hope its just another chapter in the strong relationship between the two clubs.“