Ampthill RFC 19 – Hartpury University RFC 13

Hartpury were forced to leave with a single bonus point – rather than the four that should have been their return – from a closely fought encounter in windy conditions at Dillingham Park, writes Jenny Bates.

The Red and Blacks crossed only once, through the powerful Akapusi Qera in the first half, and the rest of the points came from Joshua Bragman’s accurate goal-kicking.

Unfortunately, this was not enough to match the home team’s tally, which came from a converted try and four penalties.

Despite the weather and the lack of tries, it was an exciting game in which Hartpury showed some good attacking intent, which will give them some confidence going into next week’s home fixture with London Scottish.

However, they were unable to maintain discipline when it mattered, penalties allowing Ampthill to both rack up the points and clear their lines at key moments.

Thus, Hartpury wasted several try scoring opportunities and will be disappointed to have lost a game that they almost certainly should have won.

On the back of a victory over Nottingham in their previous match, Hartpury came into this game with a reasonably settled look, although the late withdrawal of Bristol’s Charlie Powell meant a start for the promising Joe Margetts.  Will Safe was also called in – he had been scheduled a rest this week – after Tom Everard failed a Friday fitness test.

Bragman got the scoreboard rolling after Ampthill had been penalised thirteen minutes in. But four minutes later, Sam Costelow brought the scores level with a kick of his own.

Ampthill took the lead in the 22nd minute, Costelow successful from wide out, despite the blustery wind.

That was about all of the action in a scrappy first quarter.

However, a period of Hartpury pressure was rewarded in the 27th minute, when former Gloucester and Fiji flanker, Akapusi Qera, crashed down in the corner off the back of a rolling maul.  Bragman impressed by slotting the extras from a difficult angle as the rain started in earnest.

A third successful Costelow penalty narrowed the gap to 9-10 and it was on the stroke of half-time that Ampthill regained the lead.   Reuben Bird-Tulloch was first to a bouncing ball from a kick through and Costelow had an easy conversion to make it 16-10.

Hartpury started the second half strongly, with Nick David (pictured, courtesy of LNC Images) showing up well on the wing.  Eventually, Bragman got another opportunity to close the gap from the kicking tee.

But Costelow restored the six-point buffer after Hartpury were caught out again.  There was still plenty of time on the clock for the visitors, but they were unable to convert final-quarter pressure into points.

A game of ‘kick tennis’ broke out, until a Bragman penalty to the corner gave his team a five-metre lineout.  Agonisingly, Hartpury lost the ball metres from the line, allowing Ampthill to clear.

Five minutes later, Hartpury were back deep inside the Ampthill 22.  Yet again, their discipline let them down and a penalty allowed Ampthill to clear.

In the final minute, Hartpury were thwarted by some outstanding Ampthill defence as, reduced to 14 men through a card, the hosts mounted a desperate try-line stand.

Ultimately, the game drew to a disappointing close for the visitors who were unable to make the most of their territory and possession.

George Simpson, who has impressed so far this season, had another good game. Impressive under the high ball, he also had a few opportunities to show his elusive running skills.

Nick David, as previously mentioned, also impressed, while Joe Batley put in a strong performance at lock, as did Will Tanner in the front row.

For the second week running, Bragman played well, in very difficult conditions, at fly-half.

Hartpury now have two home games at the Alpas Arena, welcoming London Scottish next Friday, 8th November, before hosting winless Yorkshire Carnegie in Week 6 of this year’s Championship.

Both are fixtures that Hartpury won last year and repeat performance should leave the club in god shape going into the second phase of the Championship Cup.

Ampthill: Lynch, Gillepsie, Anderson, Bird-Tulloch (Try 40), Baker, Costelow (Con 40.  Pens 17, 22, 33, 54), Veenendaal; Tonga’huiha, Ward, Lutui, Kpoku, Kerry, Allman, Bercis, Hudson. Bench: Blackmore, Collins, Christie, Johnson, Molitika, Williams, Grimoldby, Hanks

Hartpury:  Simpson, David, Margetts, Eves, Fricker, Bragman (Con 28.  Pens 13, 51), Cochrane; Murphy, Tanner, Gibson, Batley, Clegg, Graham, Qera (Try 27), Nagle-Taylor. Bench: Crane, Merrey, Flook, Safe, Curran, Preece, Carter, Wilcox

Hartpury MOTM:  Nick David

Referee: Matthew Turvey

Attendance: 700

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