Ampthill held on to secure a 22-21 victory over Hull Ionians at Dillingham Park on Saturday – getting their revenge for last season’s one point loss to the same opponents.
Ampthill’s injury crisis worsened after the Plymouth game, with help provided by Moseley openside Joseph Bercis and Bedford Blues full-back James Pritchard on short term loans.
Amps began well, with the pack driving the ball into the visitors’ 22, and eventually the resulting pressure secured a penalty which full-back Elliot Clements-Hill kicked successfully in the eighth minute.
Ionians began to exert some control up front at the set piece and continuous red zone pressure saw Ampthill infringe once too often, leading to the referee awarding a penalty try on 16 minutes, converted by Isaac Green.
The second quarter was even until a trademark catch & drive from a 5m lineout saw Bercis come up with the ball by the right corner for an unconverted try on 32 minutes.
The end of the half saw another try from Bercis who drove over from close range after a break from Pritchard had split the visitors’ defence. Clements-Hill’s touch line conversion left the score 15-7 at half-time.
The second half began with A’s on top through driving play from the pack, leading to a 46th minute try from captain Aleki Lutui who crashed over after multiple phases; Clements-Hill adding the extras.
At this stage the hosts were pressing for the bonus point try but Ionians had other ideas, gradually taking control of the next 20 minutes and scoring two fine tries through right wing Aquile Smith on 55 and 62 minutes – both converted from wide out by Green.
With the score 22-21 the visitors battered away at the home side for the remainder of the game but a combination of good defence and ill-discipline saw the scoreboard unchanged.
Ampthill director of rugby Mark Lavery said: “Ionians are a quality outfit with one of the best packs in the league; it wasn’t the best performance but a win’s a win.”
Head coach Paul Turner added: “There have been so many changes in personnel recently that I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t play like a team to start with but by the end of the game the lads were working for each other pleasingly.”