Ampthill steal the plaudits in Battle of Bedfordshire clash

Image: Matt Fleming Photography

Ampthill have proved themselves to be somewhat of a bogey team for the Blues in recent years, and once again managed to prevail in a cagey affair at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.

Mike Rayer made a host of changes for the Blues following their victory against Jersey Reds on Boxing Day but they were stifled by a disciplined and wily Ampthill side.

Since their promotion to rugby’s second tier in 2019, Ampthill have more than held their own in a tough division and once again left the Blues contingent penniless at Goldington Road.

In a fixture that usually end up being high-scoring games, today’s clash turned into a far more attritional game with scoring opportunities few and far between after an end-to-end start.

Bedford were the team to take the lead after just five minutes, hooker Jack Hughes touching down yet again for the Blues in what is turning into a fruitful season for Bedford number two.

Ampthill hit back soon after; Jack Dickinson the man to bundle over following a powerful driving maul to level the scores at 5-5.

The visitor’s reliable kicker, Russell Bennett tops the Championship scoring charts, with Will Maisey chasing him in second, but both missed their conversion chances.

After fifteen minutes, the usual narrative of tries looked to be playing out; Harri Morgan spotting a gap in the Bedford defence and darted through to give the visitors but Bennett once again failed to convert.

Jack Hughes however was not going to leave his try count for the season on four; the front rower scoring his second try of the game to level up at 10-10.

Less of a battle, more of a ceasefire

With the teams level pegging at half-time, the game was open for anyone to grab hold of, but the second half saw both sides step off the gas in an unusually tepid period of rugby.

Russell Bennett, at the third time of asking, did finally ping over a penalty to give Ampthill the lead for the first time and it was a lead they did not surrender for the majority of the game.

Quality was lacking from both sides with the game heading into the business end, both sides unable to get a foothold and take control as the crowd began to grow more nervy.

It was only until the final five minutes where the fire reignited into a red hot local derby; a series of penalties against Ampthill frustrating the hosts, who were lucky not to be reduced to fourteen.

Bedford couldn’t capitalise though, and a final minute try for Ampthill confirmed their 20-10 victory to stop the Blues’ assault on the Championship top four.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Doncaster Knights pulled off a very impressive 35-19 victory in Jersey, while there was also a victory for Richmond at bottom side, London Scottish.

The game of the day however came from Butts Park as Coventry stole a slim 34-33 victory against Hartpury, with Ealing remaining top of the league after a 34-21 victory at Nottingham last night.

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