Second Half Home Revival Dashes Hopes After 1stXV Lead At Half Time
Ampthill travelled to Rectory Field and Well Hall for 1stXV National 1 and 1881 Zoo Shield fixtures against Blackheath on a glorious day with a cold breeze blowing in favour of the hosts for the first half.
Amps starting line up saw Viliami Ma’asi (hooker) and Karl Braband (lock), making his 100th appearance for Ampthill after an injury enforced break, in the pack. In the backs, Elliot Clements-Hill, also recovered from injury, replaced the injured Jonathan Morgan at fullback. On the bench, James Fish (hooker), another injury returnee, was joined by the rotated Matthew Collins (tighthead).
In the first half, despite playing against the wind, Ampthill dominated territory & possession, scored two tries to lead 0-12. The first by wing George Elliot (contrary to the official NCA result sheet), came in the 17th minute after multiple forward phases in the red zone and the second by scrum-half Gavin Williams on 26 minutes, a snipe from a goal line ruck, again after the home defence had been stretched by many phases deep in the 22. Fullback Elliot Clements-Hill converted the first and hit the post with the second, from the touch line kick.
Amps continued to press for another try spurning a couple of chances before a loose kick into the Blackheath 22 was returned with vengeance (and the wind), miss-handled and poorly cleared leaving the hosts with a lineout on A’s 22. The home side are well drilled with their catch & drive earning a 37th minute penalty goal in front of the posts converted by flyhalf Frederick Gabbitass.
No sooner had the restart been taken before another turnover and excellent kicking from hand again saw the visitors defending a lineout catch & drive in their 22. The drive was stopped but several phases later Ampthill were adjudged to have infringed and Gabbitass mad no mistake with the 40th minute penalty goal, again in front of the posts.
Amps supporters were left wondering how so much ball in the oppositions half had left them with just a 6pt lead at oranges, however, with the wind in their favour, the second half looked full of promise.
The first quarter of the second half was a complete reversal with the home side in control as Amps failed to learn the territory lesson handed them at the end of the first half and Blackheath scored two tries through Number 8 Thomas Stradwick (49 mins) and fullback Owain James (64 mins) sandwiching a penalty goal from Gabbitass on 58 minutes to lead 21-12.
The game’s result appeared to be confirmed when lock Karl Braband was adjudged to have illegally challenged the restart in the air thus receiving his second, and to most observers harsh, yellow card which left the visitors a man down for the rest of the match. Despite that handicap Ampthill fought back, securing a 73rd minute penalty goal converted by Clements-Hill and had more chances but a lineout steal by the home side deep in their 22 in the last minute saw the visitors forced to settle for a losing bonus point.
Head Coach Paul Turner commented “This was a game we lost rather than Blackheath won, having controlled the first half against the elements to lead 6-12 we then lost all game control in the first 15 minutes of the second half, despite the benefit of the wind. We’ve come away with a bonus point but it’s disappointing as it should have been at least 4.”
Director Of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “We wanted a reaction to the poor performance at Mowden Park and we got it, it’s perhaps a reflection of how far this group has come during our National 1 experience that we’re disappointed to gain just a bonus point from an away game at one of the traditional powerhouses of level 3”
Tries:- Stradwick (49), James (64)
Conversion:- Gabbitass (65)
Penalties:- Gabbitass (37, 40, 58)
Tries:- Elliot (17), Williams (26)
Conversion:- Clements-Hill (18)
Penalty:- Clements-Hill (73)
Half Time:- 6-12
Referee:- Gareth Holsgrove
Star Man:- Jack Culverhouse