Esher 15 1stXV 46, Sat Feb 18, 2017
Ampthill travelled to Surrey on a fine bright afternoon to find perfect conditions for rugby. Amps squad saw a number of changes, up front Brett Sturgess (loose) and Matt Collins (tight) returned at prop with Aleki Lutui moving to hooker, Karl Braband returned at lock and Loti Molitika rotated to start at blindside. In the backs Kevin Barrett made his return from injury at scrum half while Oris Nawaqaliva started at centre. The bench saw the return of Ben Wilkinson (hooker), Matt Beesley (prop), Syd Blackman making his first appearance since last season at flanker and Alex Mitchell back from England U20 duty.
The first half was a tight contest between two evenly matched sides, the very physical confrontation extending beyond the forwards. The second half saw Ampthill step up a gear, scoring 24 unanswered points.
Esher took the lead on 3 minutes with a penalty goal by Tom Whitehurst, Amps responded with one of their own on 12 minutes from flyhalf Joe Tarrant.
The 15th minute saw centre Nawaqaliva receive what most visitors considered a harsh yellow card with the tackled player landing on his back, this was the trigger for A’s to produce a fine backs move starting on the home 10 line with the ball moved through the hands by the backs for full back Stef Jones to score an unconverted try by the right corner flag on 18 minutes.
Esher responded immediately after another poor exit gave them a soft launch on the visitors 22 with wing Joe Beckett crossing for the first of a brace in the 21st minute, the touchline conversion drifting wide.
With Ampthill restored to a full complement and back in the home side’s red zone on 29 minutes, a series of phases resulted in Tarrant darting through to touchdown under the posts and convert his own try.
Yet another poor exit enabled Esher to respond on 33 minutes for Beckett to score his second try, converted by Whitehurst.
The half ended with Amps back in the hosts 22, a fine handling move which saw the ball moved from the right to the left touchline for wing Sam Baker to cross and Tarrant to add the extras leaving the score 22-15 at oranges.
The second half belonged to A’s with a second, unconverted try to Jones (42 Minutes), a fine individual try (68) to replacement scrum half Mitchell who broke on the blindside and beat 3 defenders and a second for Baker (71) after wave upon wave of forward phases in the home side’s red zone. Tarrant converting the latter two having already added a 44th minute penalty goal.
On 76 minutes lock Braband received a 10 minute rest but unlike, the previous week, the defence held firm despite Esher throwing the kitchen sink at the visitors.
DoR Mark Lavery commented “After last weeks horror show we needed a response and we got one. A much better performance with forwards and backs cohesive, accurate and error free.”
MoM Kevin Barrett