Bishop's Stortford First XV 10 Ampthill 29
By John Allanson
A Stortford side decimated by injuries and matchday illness puts in a battling performance but eventually succumbs to a typically powerful and well-drilled Ampthill side.
Stortford started aggressively and had the better of early exchanges but, as the big Ampthill pack started to assert itself, the visitors were able to register the first score after 13 minutes, when winger, Spencer Sutherland plunged over in the corner for an unconverted try, capitalising on some powerful forwards' play. Stortford, showing great determination, fought their way back into the game and eventually won a penalty in the Ampthill 22. Tom Banks took a quick tap to catch the defence of balance and George Cullen took full advantage, dummying his way over out wide for an equalising score. Despite the visitors' physical advantages, the game remained evenly balanced and a tremendous counter-attack by Stortford produced the next score. Ampthill had started to look threatening again and forced their way into Stortford's 22, but a clean turnover allowed Joss Linney to burst away and knocking aside tackler after tackler, the winger made some 40 metres upfield before being stopped. Quick ball allowed George Cullen to exploit the resultant defensive disarray of the opposition and a clever crosskick found Will Simmonds in space to register a second unconverted try. This took the score to 10-5 and, despite losing Cullen to a further injury, the home side was able to hold on to their lead until halftime.
Shorn of their flyhalf, Stortford found it difficult to exert any control in the second period and conceded an equalising unconverted try within 3 minutes of the restart, when they lost the ball against the head at a defensive scrum and Ampthill clinically exploited the opportunity for winger, Nigel Baker to cross in the corner. The visitors dominated possession for the next 25 minutes, during which they scored another 3 tries through their remorseless attack, built on a growing control of the breakdowns, as some of Stortford's players understandably wilted under the constant pressure. The scorers were replacement, William Allman, Sutherland again and another substitute, Euan McKirdy after 48, 56 and 59 minutes respectively. Josh Sharp converted two to stretch the lead to 19 points, by which stage the home side looked to be well and truly on the ropes. Showing great character, though, Stortford fought their way back into the game and, by depriving the opposition of the ball for extended periods managed to prevent any further score and came close to another try themselves in a rare sally into the Ampthill 22, but this was disallowed for a push on a defender, as a kick ahead from stand-in flyhalf, Tom Banks was chased.
Thanks go to today's matchday sponsors, Forward Corporate Finance, who hopefully enjoyed their day at Silver Leys despite the result, which, given our huge injury toll and the strength of the opposition, reflected a great team effort. With at least six returning players potentially available for selection again next week, let us hope that this week has been the low point in terms of injuries for the season and that results will start to properly reflect the performances that the extended squad has been producing.
Stortford's man of the match, nominated by Club Stortford was Joss Linney, who posed a constant threat to the Ampthill defence throughout the game, often coming in off his wing to make an impact, creating a number of openings.