Academy B Fall Just Short at Chaulden Lane
Thankfully the wet and windy conditions of Saturday had long disappeared as the Academy B team made the short trip down the M1 to Hemel Hempstead for their first HML u18 Div 3 fixture on a slightly chilly, bright, sunny morning with firm conditions underfoot.
Hemel Hempstead have aspirations to win this division so the team were expecting a robust, physical encounter with a Hemel team who play a simple, effective forward based game supplemented by good tactical kicking and hard running from the backs.
The Academy boys were up to the task and an engrossing game of rugby ensued with no quarter asked or given.
Hemel drew first blood after 15 minutes after a sustained period of pressure in the Ampthill 22. With Ampthill repelling wave after wave of Hemel forwards the danger looked to have passed but Hemel managed to create an overlap on the left and their winger squeezed into the corner. The conversation was missed and Ampthill promptly marched back up the pitch to set up camp in the Hemel 22. Despite being there for about 5 solid minutes the Academy were unable to convert the territory into points through a mixture of great defending and a lack of accuracy at critical moments.
The scrum was holding its own, the line out was working well, we were competitive at the break down, keeping our shape in defence and we were making our tackles. The problem was that so were Hemel so the rest of the half turned into a stalemate played between the 22’s until ill discipline from Hemel allowed Harry Lawler a chance to pin Hemel back into their 22. A beautiful kick gave us a line out 10m out and the forwards started pounding the Hemel line. Despite being held up over the line twice, the team kept their patience, composure and more importantly the ball until Noah Ransome forced his way over for a well deserved score.
We were unable to add the extras and oranges were taken with the score locked at 5-5.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were always likely to be crucial and Hemel struck first, A well worked backs move led to their centre cantering in unopposed under the posts. The conversation was added and Hemel moved ahead 12-5. The early score gave Hemel momentum and they looked to up the tempo. Our defence held firm and we had established base back in the Hemel 22 when we were hit by a sucker punch of a try from the Hemel 10. Taking a scruffy looking pass from his scrum half he ran a line back towards the tail of a line out, weaved passed three would be tacklers and found himself in open space. With 50m still to go he pinned his ears back and went for the corner and just managed to get there ahead of the desperate cover defence. The conversation was missed but Hemel had opened up a two score lead.
At this point the game could have got away from the Academy boys but to their credit they got stuck in and the remaining 20 minutes were spent exclusively in the Hemel half. Sam Thornton-Greet got close out on the right wing, Josh Methven got even closer on the left wing, tackled into touch inches short and the forwards kept pounding away. The pressure was rewarded when Noah Ransome drove over from short range after another series of multiple phases close to the line, testimony to the hard work the boys are putting in with Tom, Phil and Craig back on the paddock in Ampthill.
The conversion attempt went wide and the referee blew for no side leaving the team frustrated at the result but rightly proud of their performance and looking forward to the rest of the HML campaign.
Next up for the Academy B side will be a friendly at home against Old Albanians B on Sunday 14th October, kick off 11:30am.