Ampthill 21 Blackheath 14

The time of year when forward power tends to hold sway, and it was the heavyweight Ampthill pack and their edge at the scrum, allied to a well-organised defence, that proved decisive in this tight contest.

Indeed the mould was set early.  As a chip ahead forced Blackheath into carrying the ball over their own goal-line, the first five-metre scrum resulted in a penalty, and with the hosts opting for a re-set, play moved across the uprights before open-side James Bercis glided through a gap for a 7-0 lead with just five minutes gone.

Blackheath had their moments too at the set-piece, their first points coming from a scrum infringement, and the line-out worked faultlessly throughout, providing plenty of useful possession.

The recent volume of rain, which had caused the postponement of Cambridge’s fixture some twenty-five miles to the east, hadn’t adversely affected the Dillingham Park surface either, making for decent footing, but the ball, made greasy by a light shower at the start of play, slipped from grasp on three occasions in good attacking positions, denying Blackheath any addition to Joe Tarrant’s eleventh minute penalty.

Instead, it was Ampthill who struck next.  Unlike the visitors, the hosts’ throwing-in seldom found the intended target, but somehow ball mostly fell into maroon and amber hands anyway, and a line-out set up a drive close to the Club’s goal-line on the half-hour,  hooker Aleki Lutui drove across for a second converted try and a 14-3 advantage at the break.

Blackheath’s best period came after the interval and for a brief time the visitors looked as if they might hold the key to taking the initiative.

Tom Stradwick snagged an Ampthill line-out to keep up pressure, and as he came off his wing to hit scrum ball at pace, Jake Lloyd powered through a tackle to at last break open the hosts’ defence and score in the corner.

Tarrant added his second penalty for a high tackle to reduce the arrears to a mere three points on 57 minutes and with opposite fly-half Laurence Rayner’s goal attempt striking the upright a short while later, perhaps the tide was turning.

Nevertheless, despite their faltering line-out, Ampthill suddenly retrieved their grip on the contest, opening up the Club’s midfield for second-row Billy Johnson to race across and put daylight between the scores once more, and although Tarrant struck a third penalty as Lutui was dismissed for not retreating, Blackheath could not make their numerical advantage count in the closing stages.

Next Saturday Blackheath return to Well Hall for their first home match of 2018 when unbeaten league-leaders Coventry are the visitors.  Kick-off is at 3.00 pm.


Tries:   Bercis, Lutui, Johnson

Conv:  Pritchard 2, Rayner


Tries:   Lloyd

Pens:    Tarrant 3