Ampthill DoR Mark Lavery has admitted he will have a selection headache for the Battle of Bedfordshire after a determined 31-22 win against Richmond at Dillingham Park.
The sides were level at half-time through Rob Kirby’s boot to cancel out James Flynn and Dave Ward’s tries.
But a David Halaifonua brace and Syd Blackmore maul left the fans with something to celebrate, Billy Johnson captaining the side on his last home game.
Lavery said: “We always knew there was a real danger to today. It had the potential to be like the day after the Lord Mayor’s Parade after Monday night’s game [vs Saracens].
“Richmond are a determined and dogged side. No matter how many times we thought we were in control, they bounced right back into it. Our error count was poor and our discipline was a little substandard. But the important thing was to take a W and the bonus is just that.”
“I thought Suvwe Obano was good. Austin Wallis came off the bench and did a really good job. Both of them have given us headaches.
“Richard Streets did well, Russell [Bennett] was good, Will Porter’s a Premiership scrum-half and there’ll be fresher bodies for next week.”
It was the visitors who jumped out of the blocks, winning a penalty on the 10m line which Kirby slotted.
But Lavery’s side were not fazed, building from a maul three minutes later for Flynn to push over as Bennett added the extras.
Ampthill’s penalty count kept ticking up, though, allowing the Richmond full-back a hat-trick of penalties 11 minutes in.
The home side once again pulled themselves back, Ward – playing the last home game of his career before heading to Bristol Bears Women as Head Coach – finishing a maul six minutes later.
Richmond were handed a third opportunity to get ahead when Jac Arthur was sin-binned for dissent against referee Adam Leal, winning a penalty kick on 24 minutes.
But Kirby’s effort skimmed paint off the outside edge of the left post from the 22m line, the biting wind playing a part.
The Richmond back, though, had a fourth with three minutes of the half left.
With the teams all square, it was Ampthill who pushed on to take their opportunities.
The first came from ground play on the right wing after four minutes before Halaifonua burst through a gap, Bennett converting.
While Kirby added a fifth penalty five minutes later, Richmond were stretched on 52 minutes as the Tongan ran clear to the corner.
The visitors had their first try after an hour, Alex Goble finding debutant Graham Geldunhuys as Kirby converted.
Just two points behind, Richmond pushed for an edge but could not take their opportunities.
It was not the case for Ampthill, though, as a 10-man maul sent substitute Blackmore over on 78 minutes, six days after scoring against Saracens, as Bennett secured the win.
Ampthill were also backed up by over 500 supporters in attendance for the first time since Covid-19 brought last season to a halt.
Lavery added: “It was great to thank them, those that got behind the cause. Great to have them back. Rugby’s nothing without fans and I’m hopeful we can get a few of ours into Goldington Road next week.”
Tries: Flynn 5, Ward 17, Halaifonua 44, 52, Blackmore 78
Cons: Bennett 6, 45, 79
Sin Bins: Arthur 24
Team (15-9/1-8): Hudson (Stileman X); Halaifonua, Hallett, Streets, Sutherland; Bennett, Porter; Flynn (Crean 74), Ward (Blackmore 54), Collins (Lutui); Burgess (Beckett 54), Jones; Johnson ©, Arthur (Wallis), Obano
Substitutes not used: Law, Sage
Tries: Geldunhuys 66
Cons: Kirby 67
Pens: Kirby 2, 8, 11, 37, 49
Team (15-9/1-8): Kirby; Goble, Caddy, Evans, Kaye; Dennett, Jones; Harris (Christie X), Perks (Musk 56), Schonert (Gratton X); Collingridge (Bibic 61), Hosking; Parker © (Massey 61), Saysell (Geldunhuys 56), Worthington
Replacements not used: Gowling, Cook
Penalties conceded: 10-10
Line outs won: 10-8
Line outs lost: 3-2
Scrums won: 3-8
Scrums lost: 1-0
Sin Bins: 1-0
Red Cards: 0-0
Referee: Adam Leal
Star Man: Russell Bennett – Ampthill