Hartpury University 20 – Ampthill RFC 21

Not for the first time this season, Hartpury had victory snatched away in the final play of the game as a tendency to surrender needless penalties cost them dear.

For Ampthill it was reward for a typically stubborn performance and skipper Charlie Beckett was happy at the end.  

“It was a bit of a mad game, but after two last play losses ourselves this season, it was good to get over the line,” he said.

“It was quite a gritty game with a bit of niggle, but both teams tried to play some rugby and either would have deserved the result.”

The match was dominated by the whistle of referee, Dan Jones, which stopped it ever developing into the spectacle that the almost perfect conditions deserved.  The majority of the important decisions went against the home team, who will reflect that discipline and inaccuracy have now cost them a significant number of league points this season.

Ampthill had to overcome a number of injuries throughout the game, while the home team also lost influential winger, Ben Foley, to a knee injury in during the first half.

There was little to separate the two teams in the opening quarter, although Ampthill did take the lead when Josh Bragman slotted a simple penalty after 7 minutes.

Hartpury were lacking their normal zip in attack, although they managed to work full-back Tommy Mathews into space for the game’s first try early in the second quarter.  James Williams’ conversion made it 7-3.

Ten minutes later, Ampthill were back in front.  With a penalty advantage being played, the ball was dabbed behind the home defence and Bragman, a former Hartpury player, was first to the bouncing ball, before converting his own try.

There was a scrappy period either side of the break and it was not until the 50th minute that Ampthill were able to extend their lead with a Will Partington penalty, Bragman having become one of a number of injuries in the game.

He repeated the dose to make it 7-16 on the hour mark after a Charlie Foley tackle was deemed high and worthy of a card. A similar offence by Ampthill, minutes later, produced a penalty but no further sanction.

Williams responded with three points shortly afterwards before, finally, Hartpury made something stick when Jack Tovey scored in the corner after good hands in the backs. 

In the 72nd minute Aled Ward grabbed a third home try from close range after intense pressure but – with the league’s leading scorer Williams now off the pitch – critically, neither try was converted.

In the final moments Ampthill, again assisted by Mr Jones, established field position in the home 22 and the drive, eventually, did its job.

“It was desperately disappointing,” was the verdict of Hartpury’s Mark Cornwell. “we didn’t come to terms with the referee’s interpretation at the breakdown and we were too loose with the ball in possession.”   

Hartpury now conclude the regular season with two away fixtures, at Richmond Rugby on March 12th and at Cornish Pirates – still very much in the promotion picture – the following week.

The next game at the Alpas is in the Championship Cup, on April 23rd, also against Richmond.

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