Loughborough Students 29 1stXV 37, Sat Sep 24, 2016, Match Report
Ampthill travelled to Loughborough on a bright, windy morning which saw cloud cover increasing during the afternoon. The artificial pitch was perfect as one expects.
Amps squad saw multiple changes as the coaching team reacted to the previous week’s poor performance. Up front Vili Ma’asi started at hooker with Aleki Lutui moving to tighthead while Nick Isiekwe (lock) & Ben Earl (blindside) both returned from Aviva ‘A’ league activity with Saracens. In the backs Kevin Barrett came in at scrum half with Stef Jones moving to outside half while Pete Weightman made his debut on the wing and Karim Lynch returned at full back. On the bench James Fish returned from Aviva ‘A’ league duty with Saints while Matt Collins and Joe Tarrant were rotated.
Playing against the wind A’s pack dominated the first half, setting the pattern by disrupting Loughboro’s lineout and winning penalties at their scrum put in. The students had no answer in the tight, however, their mobility in the loose caused some problems for the visitor’s defence.
Ampthill scored four tries in the first half through Number 8 Maama Molitika (a catch & drive on 5 minutes which was stopped short but he crashed over from close range), hooker Vili Ma’asi (13 minutes, a better executed catch & drive wide on the right), Molitika again (22 minutes, another catch & drive this time to the left of the posts) and centre Sam Hanks (31 minutes, wide out after multiple phases in the red zone). Fly Half Stef Jones converted the first and the third and added a 40th minute penalty goal.
Meanwhile, the hosts scored a 17th minute try through lock Matt Macpherson after he charged down a clearing kick converted by fly half Josh Sharp who also added a penalty goal on 38 minutes, the incident seeing Amps reduced to 14 players.
With the score 10-27 at oranges and A’s with the wind advantage in the second half the visiting support might have expected more scores in the second period, however, it took until the 55th minute for the scorers to have something to do when Jones struck his second penalty between the posts.
The home side began to throw caution to the wind attacking from all over the pitch resulting in a 62nd minute try for openside flanker Harry Nuttall who was in support to take the scoring pass after a fine move had left Ampthill’s defence chasing shadows, Sharp adding the extras.
Amps response was immediate but they failed to take advantage of multiple phases on the home goal line only for wing Sam Baker to crash over on 68 minutes after it seemed the danger had been cleared, Jones successful with the conversion.
Loughborough weren’t done yet putting the visitors under pressure for the last 10 minutes culminating in an 80th minute unconverted try for full back Yiannis Loizias.
A’s were back deep in the home 22 as time added on ran out when Sharp telegraphed a pass in front of the posts and scampered 90m to score & convert his own try in the 83rd minute.
This was a fine response by Ampthill’s squad to the previous week’s result, in truth the score flattered the hosts as, despite their potent and dangerous back line, they didn’t win enough ball up front to deserve anything more from the game.
Amps now turn their attention to next weekend’s first ever visit of Moseley to Dillingham Park.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “In the first half our pack was magnificent, denying Loughborough the platform they needed for their dangerous back line to threaten. The second half, particularly the last quarter, was a touch disappointing as the replacements were unable to maintain the level of dominance of the starting XV. However, we needed a response to last week’s inadequate display, I’m happy that we got it.”
Tries: Macpherson (17), Nuttall (62), Loizias (80), Sharp (83)
Conversions: Sharp (18, 63, 84)
Penalty: Sharp (38)
Tries: Molitka (5, 22), Ma’asi (13), Hanks (31), Baker (68)
Conversions: Jones (6, 23, 69)
Penalties: Jones (40, 55)
Man of the match: Ben Earl, Ampthill