Tenacious Ampthill staged an impressive second half fight-back to get the better of Harrogate in an entertaining clash at Claro Road.
In a game of two halves, the hosts bossed the first period, but the second half saw the visitors raise their game as the forwards took control in the contact area and the scrum became a major attacking weapon.
The first half began with the hosts taking the lead in the third minute with a well struck penalty goal from their full-back after Ampthill were penalised at a break down in front of the posts.
Two further penalty goals followed, both for similar offences, while Amps could only manage a 38th minute penalty goal from fly-half Joseph Tarrant in reply – leaving the score 9-3 to Harrogate at half-time.
Ampthill had been under pressure throughout the half, although excellent scrambled defence from both sides had prevented either from seriously threatening to cross the whitewash.
The second half saw Tarrant successful with a 46th minute penalty goal as it became apparent that Amps had shifted up a gear up front and were taking the game to the home side.
The first of numerous scrum penalties against the hosts resulted in a 51st minute line out deep in the home 22.
For the first time in the game, a trademark catch and drive ensued as Harrogate’s effective disruption of the maul was finally subdued, and Amps flanker Joseph Bercis bagged his 21st try of the season, with Tarrant adding the extras.
Harrogate were now struggling to get out of their half, with accurate kicking from the Ampthill half-backs and forward control keeping them on the back foot.
Tarrant converted another two penalty goals on 58 and 67 minutes as the home side were increasingly under pressure, before a multiple phase forward attack on the hosts’ goal line saw the ball released to Ampthill’s inside centre William Goodge.
He forced his way across the line to the left of the posts for a 71st minute try converted by Tarrant.
Harroate came back into the game for the last five minutes, but strong defence snuffed out their attacks even after further clean breaks.
While the first half saw a full strength Amps side under the cosh from a well organised and inventive Harrogate, equally the second half was an excellent forward showing from the visitors.
Ampthill head coach Paul Turner said: “Although we were as stretched as we have been this season in the first half, I was not too concerned, as I expected some fatigue to affect the second period.
“In fact we raised our game up front which, together with great support from the backs, was enough to secure the half 0-23.
“With eight games to go, it’s still all to play for.”