Blaydon 17, 1stXV 40, Sat Apr 01, 2017
Ampthill made the long journey North to Blaydon’s Crow Trees ground just a few miles West of Newcastle on another spring afternoon with sunshine and a gentle breeze.
Amps squad saw a number of changes, up front home grown prop James Wright made his first appearance of the season following a long rehab via the 1881s, a fit again Ben Gulliver returned at lock and Syd Blackmore started at blindside. In the backs Stef Jones moved to fly half as Joe Tarrant’s broken ankle against Ionians ended his season, Sam Baker returned on the wing with Karim Lynch moving to full back. The bench saw England U20 Ralph Adams-Hale make his first appearance of the season while Mickey Wilson returned providing backs cover.
For once A’s were clearly off the bus early as the first 20 minutes saw the visitors dominant, playing a 15 man game with accuracy keeping the hosts on the back foot.
Wing Sam Baker opened the scoring on 10 minutes after Man of the Match centre Elliott Reeder delivered a superb cut out scoring pass, Stef Jones converting from wide out on the left.
Blaydon replied almost immediately with a 12th minute penalty goal from fly half Andrew Baggett after Ampthill were penalised at a breakdown.
On 20 minutes Baker added his second in similar circumstances, this time scrum half Kevin Barrett provided the inspiration with Jones adding the extras, again from the touch line.
The home side came back into the game through their forwards with some powerful running and good support leading to multiple phases in and on Amps 22.
Much against the run of play wing Pete Weightman broke out of deep defence on 30 minutes, fed the supporting Reeder who, having crossed the line, gave the ball to Baker to secure his hat-trick! No doubt the lure of the forthcoming jugs being a factor in his selflessness, Jones again successful with the conversion.
3-21 behind one could have forgiven the home side for a head or two dropping but, quite to the contrary, this was the signal for their best period of the match.
Immediately back in the visitors half the pressure resulted in a poor exit leading to a fine try for prop Andrew Davidson who touched down near the posts in the 35th minute, Baggett converting.
On 38 minutes, open side Joe Bercis added A’s 4th and bonus point securing try which went unconverted.
The hosts weren’t done yet and added their second try in time added on at the end of the first half through flanker Jack Davidson after good work from Tom Grimes & Max Connon, Baggett adding the extras leaving the score 17-26 at oranges.
Ampthill began the second half as they had the first, replacement prop Ralph Adams-Hale bursting clear to feed flanker Syd Blackmore who crossed under the posts on 47 minutes with Jones adding the extras.
The game began to degenerate into a stalemate with both sides unable to create much continuity or opportunity.
Amps then received 3 yellow cards in quick succession, the first two being somewhat perplexing, first centre Will Goodge was penalised on 66 minutes, apparently for pulling back a player off the ball, the video is expected to confirm that he wasn’t near the incident, A’s defence holding strong during the 10 minutes with 14 players.
Next lock Paino Hehea was adjudged to have committed a high tackle on 77 minutes, again the video will be examined for confirmation.
Then, just a minute later, flanker Joe Bercis received a card for a deserved technical offence leaving the visitors with just 13 players on the pitch for the remainder of the game.
Ampthill weren’t done mind since in the 2nd minute of time added on, a break and off load from replacement scrum half Alex Mitchell saw athletic prop Adams-Hale race 40m+ to the line with the home side’s backs unable to close him down, Jones adding the extras to leave the score 17-40 at no side.
This was a fine performance from Amps, two evenly matched forward packs with two strong scrummages fought a titanic battle with Blaydon more than holding their own. With Elliot Reeder’s best ever performance in maroon & gold being a highlight A’s backs were clinical when opportunities were created making the difference.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “Crow Trees is always a difficult place to come to and get a result. At times we played some exhilarating rugby but we also conceded two tries from poor exits. On the whole a very pleasing performance.”
Tries:- Davidson A (35), Davidson J (41)
Conversions:- Baggett (36, 42)
Penalty Goals:- Baggett (12)
Tries:- Baker (10, 20, 30), Bercis (38), Blackmore (47), Adams-Hale (82)
Conversions:- Jones (11, 21, 31, 48), Wilson (83)