Ampthill edged a thrilling clash with Cinderford as they won 27-25 at the Forest of Dean in Saturday’s National 1 encounter.
The Amps squad saw two changes in the pack, with former prop Thomas Williams returning on loan from Bedford Blues and hooker James Fish (Northampton Saints Academy) making his first start after impressing from the bench.
In the backs, scrum-half Gavin Williams returned to the starting XV while Maxwell Wilkins (Saracens Academy) made his debut at inside centre.
There were four changes on the bench, with prop Billy Walker (Saracens Academy) returning, hooker Viliami Ma’asi and flanker Jake Foster making their seasonal debuts, and scrum-half Kieran Duffin, at the club back following a spell at the ‘1881’s.
After a very competitive first quarter, Ampthill took control in the second, outscoring the hosts by three tries to one to lead 19-7 at the half-time whistle.
The third quarter saw Cinderford tear into the visitors, scoring 15 points in the space of five minutes as they lead 25-19 with 16 minutes remaining.
Ampthill responded with an unconverted try and retook the lead with a coolly struck 78th minute penalty goal from replacement fly-half William Maisey.
There was still further drama to come, though, as the hosts’ last kick of the game penalty goal attempt cruelly struck a post.
That ensured that the points went to Ampthill, leaving both sets of spectators with chewed finger nails, neutrals having watched an outstanding spectacle, and both coaching teams with much to work on.
Ampthill director of rugby Mark Lavery said: “We played our get-out-of-jail card today and there’s no doubt that the best team lost.
“Our structure was absent for much of the second half and there will be some straight discussion on Tuesday.”
Ampthill tries: Dyer (21), Tarrant (27), Howling (34), Dyer (69).
Conversions: Clements-Hill (22, 28).
Penalty: Maisey (78).
Man of the Match: Darrell Dyer.
Ref: Matthew O’Grady.