Lots of learning for all
It was decided that our first ever fixture against a strong Ampthill side would be played as a development match; four 15 minute quarters to allow for coaching points, no conversions and regular changes of personnel.
The first quarter was evenly matched, both sides looking to move the ball wide despite the slippery conditions - Ampthill displaying excellent off-loading skills and ball retention and Ays proving resolute and disciplined in defence. Harvey led the defensive line with some huge tackles in the outside centre channel and Joe, in an unaccustomed role at fly-half, orchestrated some excellent counter-attacking moves. Both sides found the final pass lacking on a number of occasions, and it remained scoreless after 15 minutes.
A change in players for both sides at the first break saw Ampthill begin to apply real pressure, whilst Ays lost some of their intensity and shape, allowing Ampthill’s dangerous full-back and centres to create the first real chance of the game, which they duly finished in the corner. From the restart Ays were under pressure again, Ampthill recycling well but knocking on close to the line. The resulting scrum gave Ays the chance to clear their lines, but Ampthill ran the ball back strongly and a couple of missed tackles allowed one of their strong runners to cross again. When the Ampthill #15 broke through Ays’ defensive lines, a third try looked certain, until Kit hunted him down from 20 metres behind. 14-0 at half time.
Reshuffled again, with the coaches’ instructions to look for space behind and hassle the ball carriers in their minds, Ays began to get a stronger grip on the game. Ays’ captain, James, once again showed the value of a hooker who plays like a 7 (or a 7 who plays at hooker), proving a menace over the ball and providing some excellent linking passes, the forwards began to run some slightly wider lines, and the gaps began to appear, allowing Harvey to blast through the centres and score under the posts.
The remainder of the quarter was evenly matched: Kit repeatedly getting the better of his opposite number in only a couple of metres of space but being thwarted by Ampthill’s standout full-back, Ben making a try-saving tackle late on, but a loose ball was quickly pounced on by Ampthill and they crashed over from close range at the corner flag for their third try to make the score 21-7.
Ays’ heads didn’t drop for a moment. Led by Sam, Glyn and Will, the forward ball-carriers began punching holes again, and Ampthill looked as if they were beginning to tire. Neat passing put Harvey into space, and he unselfishly (although, perhaps over-generously) chose to pass rather than go himself, but the final pass didn’t stick. Ays kept looking to vary the point of attack, and, having shown great discipline in his passing game, Joe threw a fabulous dummy and ghosted over from ten metres out virtually untouched.
Ampthill showed that they had life in them yet, and only a huge defensive effort on their own line kept Ays in the game, Ollie relieving the pressure with some well-chosen kicks. Superb work from the forwards to pinch the ball allowed Ays to rumble upfield and, with the Ampthill defence stretched, Kit finally got the result his unstinting efforts deserved as he turned on the burners and left Ampthill’s would-be tacklers grasping air as he touched down for the final score of the game.
Honours even, then, at three tries each. And once again, a superb squad effort from Ays – every player getting at least a half on the pitch, some boys playing out of position (and putting in excellent performances) and some of the less-experienced players more than matching up to a skilful, physical and well-drilled Ampthill team.