Ampthill defence passes tough test against Grasshoppers

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The Ampthill defence held firm against a late assault from Preston Grasshoppers to earn a battling 22-17 home win.

The Amps squad saw four changes in the pack, two in the backs and four on the bench, from where Bedford loanee William Moss made his debut.

Number 8 Maama Molitika and centre Daniel Lavery made their first appearances of the season, having both recovered from injury.

Preston began well, using their forwards to gain territory, and their maul was particularly effective – resulting in a fifth minute try to their open side flanker, converted by their fly-half.

The hosts responded with a flowing move that resulted in fly-half Joseph Tarrant taking on the defence and showing great strength to touch down in the 10th minute. He followed up by adding the extras.

On 18 minutes, after Ampthill had failed to capitalise on a chance or two, captain Villiami Ma’asi took an inside ball to the left of the posts and crashed over. Tarrant, setting the tone for the remainder of the game, failed with the straightforward conversion.

On 30 minutes, a Grasshoppers lock touched down after another catch and drive wide out, with their fly-half landing a second excellent conversion.

Amps remained on the attack for much of the remainder of the half but, despite much effort and creating two three-on-ones, no further score was added before the referee blew for half-time – leaving Amps trailing 14-12.

The second half saw the introduction of the Ampthill bench, which first gained parity in the forward exchanges and then saw two further unconverted tries.

The first came from a counter attack from deep in the hosts’ own half, finished by full-back Elliot Clements-Hill in the 50th minute.

The second was another effort from Tarrant on 69 minutes from close range as he spun over the line despite the attention of two defenders.

The visitors scored a penalty goal in the 68th minute from in front of the posts after the home side’s defence had held firm in the red zone.

The last five minutes saw Preston hammer at Ampthill’s line with multiple scrums, but the defence held firm to secure the bonus point win.

Ampthill director of Rugby Mark Lavery said:“We got out of jail with our last 10 minutes of defence after Preston came with a game plan which they executed very well.

“We might have done more with the possession we had in the first half but all credit to Grasshoppers, that was as tough a game as we’ve had this season.”

Ampthill tries: Tarrant 10, 69, Ma’asi 18; Clements-Hill 50

Conversions: Tarrant 11

Preston Grasshoppers tries: Napier 5, Tomlinson 30

Conversions: Allen 6, 31

Penalty: Allen 68

Half time score: Ampthill 12 Preston Grasshoppers 14

Attendance: 162

Referee: Philip Davies

Starman: Villiami Ma’asi, Ampthill