Blackheath 17 1stXV 24, Sat Feb 05, 2017
Ampthill travelled to Well Hall seeking their first win against ‘Club’ as the three previous fixtures with the oldest rugby club had seen Blackheath take the spoils and the points, including a comprehensive 17-31 win in the reverse fixture at Dillingham Park back in October.
Amps squad saw numerous changes, up front Matt Beesley returned at loose head with Reece Marshall starting at hooker and Aleki Lutui moving to tight head while Mike Howard, on loan from Bedford Blues, made his debut at lock. In the backs, Ben Calder started at scrum half. The replacements saw prop Brett Sturgess rotate and flanker Will Allman (Northampton Saints) make his debut.
Despite having lost all three previous games against Blackheath, A’s, yet again, appeared to be ‘still on the bus’ as the game began. A lack of accuracy led to concerted home side pressure after three consecutive visiting kicks from hand failed to find touch. Next a speculative ‘Gary Owen’ was allowed to bounce and in the ensuing scramble Ampthill were adjudged to have deliberately knocked on leaving the referee to award a penalty try, 7-0 to the hosts after 3 minutes.
Amps responded immediately with Jonny Morgan’s clean take of the kickoff and subsequent burst into the 22 setting up the forwards for a series of phases with Reece Marshall grounding the ball at base of the posts for a try, converted by fly half Joe Tarrant.
A kicking duel then ensued for 20 minutes or so as both sides seemed to want to play without the ball. On 33 minutes A’s failed to deal with yet another high kick and were penalised resulting in successful penalty goal opportunity for ‘Club’.
After the game had been pretty even for much of the half the visitors found new wind with a series of red zone phases from the forwards resulting in a 38th minute, first touch of the game try for replacement Will Allman, Tarrant adding the extras leaving the score 10-14 at oranges.
The second half began with Ampthill, now well & truly off the bus, dominant up front and applying pressure with multiple phases in the red zone very well defended by an organised home side. However, fly half Tarrant saw an opportunity as the ball was moved quickly away from a breakdown, standing up his cover and ghosting under the posts for a 45th minute try which he converted.
Sadly for Amps, the inaccuracy returned with a knock on preventing what looked like a 4th and bonus point securing try.
Blackheath attacked from the ensuing scrum with a well executed cross field kick resulting in a converted 53rd minute try for their centre. What might and perhaps, should have been 10-28 was now 17-21.
A’s, back in the home side’s 22, stressed the defence with another sequence of phases resulting in a 57th minute penalty goal well struck by Tarrant.
The last quarter belonged to Blackheath with Amps by now very unfamiliar looking pack struggling after forced substitutions. Wave after wave of ‘Club’ attacks were repelled by an outstanding defensive display culminating in a remarkable and game saving tackle by full back Karim Lynch on his opposite number in what turned out to be the last play of the game.
Next week Ampthill welcome runaway league leaders Hartpury to Dillingham Park, unbeaten and in fact, yet to miss out on a single bonus point, they are chasing the highest ever points total scored in National 1.
DoR Mark Lavery commented “Our accuracy was poor in the first quarter, often doubling and even tripling up on errors. The middle quarters were far better with some cohesive play until the error that saw a bonus point go begging. However, the defensive display in the last quarter was comparable with the Alamo legend. Defeating Blackheath in National 1 for the first time was made all the more sweet by the news that the 1881s had beaten top of the table Blackheath Heathens in the Zoo Merit table, running in 7 tries in the process.”
Tries:- Penalty (2), Fielding (53)
Conversions:- Fielding (2, 54)
Penalty Goals:- Fielding (33)
Tries:- Marshall (6), Allman (38), Tarrant (45)
Conversions:- Tarrant (7, 39, 46)
Penalty Goals:- Tarrant (57)