Bedford Blues and Ampthill faced up for the second time in two weeks at Goldington Road this afternoon; a final chance for the sides to prepare for the beginning of the Championship next week.
Last Saturday’s exhibition ended with 11 tries and Ampthill’s Dave Ward carried on the try fest with an early touch down for the visitors from a rolling maul after four minutes.
A second try soon followed as Ampthill’s power proved too much; 42-year old Aleki Lutui bundling over, and with the simple conversion taken, Ampthill led 12-0 with a quarter of the game gone.
Any attempt from the Blues to penetrate Ampthill territory were scuppered by handling errors or penalty concessions much to the frustration of Mike Rayer and his coaching staff.
A third try, finished off by centre Jeremy Toa, showed off Ampthill’s dominant forward line – with an average age of 35 – that smelt blood in the face of Bedford inexperience.
However, the Ampthill pressure relented and with it came Bedford’s first try, Pat Tapley finding space on the right wing, striding home to put the Blues on the scoreboard.
Rich Lane nearly reduced the deficit further as the legendary Blues flair began to show, but he spilled a tough offload into touch by the corner as the hosts began to find their feet.
With the half-time whistle on the horizon, Lane and Tapley found their mojos, as the Blues scored their second try of the afternoon, finished off by new signing Elijah Niko.
Ampthill went into the half-time break with a 19-14 lead; but the Blues looked like a completely different side to the battering they took in the first fifteen minutes.
Bedford’s momentum spilled into the second half, with the scrum beginning to dominate, securing a host of penalties in the first ten minutes of the second period.
They could not capitalise on their pressure with any points however, with both side’s defences holding firm.
The 19-14 scoreline remained until a 66th minute drop goal from last year’s top scorer in the Championship, Louis Grimaldby, who extended Ampthill’s lead to 8 points.
The visitors were threatening to end the second half in the same fashion they started the first, and scored their fourth try of the game courtesy of replacement, Syd Blackmore.
The floodgates then opened as Bedford pushed on; Jonny Law intercepting a wayward pass near half way to score Ampthill’s fifth try, with the impressive Grimoldby adding the extras to secure an impressive Ampthill win.
James Lennon scored a consolation with the final play of the game for the Blues, but Ampthill left Goldington Road with the Battle of Bedfordshire spoils.
The visitors were good value for their 36-21 victory; blowing Bedford away in the first fifteen minutes, a gap that Bedford never closed despite looking threatening at the end of the first half.
Flashes of brilliance from Pat Tapley and captain, Rich Lane gave Bedford fans a glimpse of what is to come this season, but Ampthill showed grit and determination to not let the hosts exert themselves.
Both sides can take positives from the past fortnight going into the Championship season that begins next Saturday, as the Blues travel to Coventry on Saturday, with Ampthill visiting Doncaster.