Ampthill’s National 1 adventure began in winning style as they secured a bonus point 27-16 victory at Esher at the weekend.
The Amps squad saw league debuts for prop Ralph Adams-Hale, flanker Matthew Howling and centre Elliott Reeder, while prop Billy Walker, hooker James Fish, flanker Brian Tuilagi and fly-half William Maisey were named on the bench.
Both sides looked a little rusty in the initial exchanges before Ampthill took the lead in the 10th minute with a penalty goal from Elliot Clements-Hill, playing on the left wing and back from an injury-plagued year with Plymouth Albion.
But almost immediately the visitors conceded a penalty inside their 10m line and the hosts’ fly-half made no mistake to tie the scores.
On 17 minutes a missed tackle on halfway set the home side’s backs free and three passes later their inside centre touched down to the right of the posts for a try converted by the fly-half.
Ampthill’s forwards began to turn the screw, though, and in the 25th minute fly-half Joseph Tarrant ran in unopposed wide on the right. Clements-Hill’s conversion drifted wide of the posts.
Esher hit back with a penalty, but from the kick-off Amps were soon back on the attack with Adams-Hale finishing a fine try from 20m after side-stepping the cover – this time Clements-Hill converted.
A’s pack were now winning the loose contest too, leading to a 34th minute try for Clements-Hill after great work from full-back Karim Lynch. Tarrant took and missed the touchline conversion.
There was still enough time for the visitors to concede yet another penalty, duly converted to leave the score 20-16 to Amps at half-time.
After a breathless first half which produced nearly a point a minute, the second period began more cagily and it took until the 58th minute for the deadlock to be broken as Clements-Hill dotted down wide out on the left before striking a fine conversion from the touchline.
With the bonus point secured, visiting supporters had a scare when Howling received a yellow card with eight minutes to play, but Amps held on well for the victory.
Ampthill director of rugby Mark Lavery said: “A fine forward performance, particularly in the set piece, saw us carry on from last year, although there is much to work on defensively.
“Perhaps Esher underestimated us; certainly we did our homework and are gratified at the result.
“All credit to the youngsters – at one point the oldest player in our front row was 19 – but it was the older hands who secured the victory up front.”