Ampthill were good value for this victory on a dismal Gloucestershire evening. Neither side we able to produce much on a saturated pitch, but the visitors were smart enough to take the chances that came their way and, in Louis Grimoldby, had a reliable source of points.
Hartpury did have some moments of pressure, particularly in the second half, but lacked the composure to capitalise and their indiscipline was a constant encouragement to the visitors.
The surface at the Alpas Arena is generally very good, but the sheer volume of rain that had fallen meant that the match started with standing water in some areas. Although the pitch did not cut up badly, a greasy ball ensured that entertainment was at a premium.
Hartpury had made a few changes to the squad that had performed well at Nottingham two weeks ago, largely as a result of the non-availability of the Bristol Bears DR contingent. In form Ampthilll had three former Hartpury students – Tommy Mathews, Sid Blackmore and Sam Baker – in their 23.
None of this match will linger long in the memory, but the first half was particularly forgettable as the teams struggled to come to terms with the conditions.
The only score of the opening period came courtesy of a Grimoldby penalty after 18 minutes. Hartpury were penalised for coming in from the side and the fly half struck his kick well from 30 metres.
Beyond that, the teams were unable to create any kind of sustained pressure, with territorial kicking being the order of the day. Hartpury finished the half with 14 men, after young prop Ashley Challenger was singled out for an accumulation of smaller offences.
Things got marginally better after the break, although the pattern of the game remained largely the same.
The home team were pressing early in the second half but an Ampthill break-out led to a penalty for blocking an off the ball runner. Grimoldby did the rest.
He extended the lead to 0-9 a few minutes later, after Hartpury played the jumper at the lineout.
The hosts then had their best spell of the game, finally building some pressure in the visitors’ 22. However, they lacked both the ‘nous’ and the accuracy to finish the job, as a series of promising positions were wasted.
Eventually they did get some reward when, with Ampthill themselves down to 14 men after Ben Christie saw yellow for slowing the release at the breakdown, the ball squirted out of a ruck and was floated wide for Jacob Morris (pictured right, courtesy LNC Images) to score in the corner.
Hartpury could not build on that and the last rites were delivered with three minutes remaining.
Grimoldby launched a perfectly weighted cross-field kick which tortured the home defence and replacement wing, Sam Baker, was there to score. The Ampthill fly-half’s touchline conversion capped a strong individual display.
“We were very disappointed with that performance,” said Hartpury’s John Barnes. “It was always going to be a difficult night but we were particularly naïve against a solid Ampthill side.”
The Red & Blacks now get another weekend off and will be hoping for far better conditions when they travel to London Scottish in a fortnight.
Hartpury: Simpson, Morris (Try 60), Smith, Eves, Goatley, Bragman, Carter; Challenger, Crane, Gibson, Safe, Linsell, Wilson, Qera, Nagle-Taylor. Bench: Tanner, Adkins, Walsh, Fuller, Preece, Curran, Cochrane, Margetts.
Ampthill: Lewis, Sutherland, Bird-Tulloch, Mathews, Gillespie, Grimoldby (Con 78, Pens 18, 45, 51), Barrett; Christie, Ward, Collins, Kpoku, Kerry, Arthur, Bercis, Blackmore. Bench: Van Vuuren, Tongauiha, Wainwright, Williams, Molitika, Fukofuka, Anderson, Baker (Try 77).
Referee: Dean Richards