Ma’asi and Maisey Bring Amps Back From The Dead
Ampthill travelled to Loughborough on a bright, dry morning which deteriorated during the journey to a dark, damp mizzly afternoon forcing the floodlights on. The north westerly, something-more-than-a-breeze was helping the hosts in the first half.
Amps squad saw Viliami Ma’asi start at hooker with Aleki Lutui moving to tighthead while Gavin Williams returned at scrumhalf. The bench saw Ralph Adams-Hale return from England U20 duties where he was joined by the rotated Matthew Collins, Sydney Blackmore provided cover for the back row and William Goodge returned to the 1stXV squad following his rehab from injury via the 1881s.
A’s were wholly outplayed in the first half, the hosts speed of thought and foot left the visitors chasing shadows while their error count, especially in the first quarter, was unacceptable. Trailing 16-0, a try in injury time at the end of the half gave some hope. Perhaps the rocket received from the coaches at the half time break, or the assistance of the wind or the vastly reduced error count or most likely, a combination of all three turned things around but the second half saw Ampthill outscore Loughborough 3-16 to secure an unlikely win with a last-kick-of-the-game touchline conversion.
From the kick off Amps began, as they were to continue, with basic errors leading to a 1st minute penalty goal chance well struck by home fullback Thomas James.
The visitors were unable to get their driving game going despite having analysed the hosts ‘soft’ defensive lineout, twice turning the ball over deep in the home 22.
Students were soon back on the attack forcing A’s deep into their own half taking full advantage of the indiscretions that were earning the referee’s displeasure. A fine hosts attack involving backs and forwards ended in an unnecessary fracas deep in Amps 22 resulting in a yellow card for Loughborough’s fullback.
It didn’t seem to bother them as, a man short, they immediately ran back the penalty kick which failed to find touch, putting the visitors defence under intense pressure resulting in a fine unconverted try wide on the right for wing William Edwards on 18 minutes.
On 30 minutes home fly half Joshua Sharp finished another scintillating backs move in the opposite corner for another unconverted try, followed on 35 minutes by a penalty goal from in front of the posts struck by James after Amps again incurred the wrath of Mr Davis, this time for a ruck offence.
On 34 minutes, Ampthill went down a man after a yellow card for cynically preventing a quick tap but, in a strange coincidence, this was the catalyst for Amps to finally manage to exercise some control. Working the ball downfield the forwards secured a 5m lineout from which a catch & drive saw Ma’asi touch down for an unconverted try wide on the left, right on no side leaving the score 16-5 at oranges.
The second half began with Ampthill making two substitutions, bringing on prop Adams-Hale who put himself about in the loose and backs cover William Maisey whose goal kicking was to prove inspired.
Amps began to exert some forward control resulting in two relatively straight forward Maisey penalty goals from in front of the posts on 47 & 57 minutes after the home side were penalised at breakdowns.
Having closed the gap to one score A’s promptly conceded a breakdown penalty of their own converted by James in the 61st minute.
The visitors were now having the better of territory & possession but the game was stopped twice with Ampthill inside the Students 22 due to extended injury breaks which saw Amps Sydney Blackmore & Maxwell Wilkins leave the field.
A’s continued to exert pressure leading to a 72nd minute more difficult penalty goal from Maisey from wide out on the right.
On 77 minutes Loughborough went down to 14 players after a yellow card for a breakdown offence. With time running out the visitors mounted one last attack from a lineout deep in the hosts 22, multiple phases saw the ball moved first left, then right before flyhalf Joseph Tarrant threw a double miss pass to Maisey on the left wing who went through the cover to touch down in the corner to tie the score.
The final kick of the game would be his conversion which sailed between the posts, much to the dismay of the Students team and supporters.
After an awful first half Ampthill redeemed themselves with some heads up play in the second. The winning kick was a moment to enjoy for the travelling support who had had to endure a most un-rugby like taunting of every mistake and error by their team from a section of the home crowd who were, in a manner reminiscent of many round ball supporters, noticeable by their absence after the final whistle.
Head Coach Paul Turner commented “You have to feel for Lufbra as on the day they were the better side and certainly don’t look anywhere near their league table position. Ampthill were poor in the first half and a great deal better after half time. A tough day with a great ending reflecting what we are about as a group.”
Tries:- Edwards (21), Sharp (30)
Penalties:- James (1, 35, 61)
Tries:- Ma’asi (40), Maisey (80)
Conversions:- Maisey (80)
Penalties:- Maisey (47, 57, 72)
Half Time:- 16-5
Referee:- Thomas Davis
Star Man:- William Maisey