There were few dull moments as the Reds achieved a first away win in the league this season at the third attempt, but not before they’d been made to work by Championship new boys Ampthill.
On the first visit to Dillingham Park, or the Grange Jaguar-Land Rover Bowl to be precise, the Reds twice seemed to have the game won only for their plucky opponents to rally. At the third time of asking, the visitors – wearing their all-blue away strip – finally nailed down the score.
On a still, dry day the Reds made a disastrous start. Inside the first 50 seconds they conceded a penalty from the kick-off, saw Greg Dyer’s kick charged down and then a try awarded to home flanker Joe Bercis, following up on the charge-down and hack ahead by Sam Costelow.
The remainder of the opening quarter saw a powerful Jersey rally, based on forward dominance at the set-piece and the concession of six penalties within 20 minutes by the hosts. Josh Bainbridge and then TJ Harris claimed tries from mauls, and then a penalty try was awarded when the referee lost patience, also sin-binning home skipper Dave Ward for blatantly entering a maul from side-on.
A fourth Reds’ try could have killed the game, and there chances through a Luc Jones run through the middle, another attacking lineout and a run by on-loan winger Alex Morgan, but no points were forthcoming, and the home side took advantage to score 10 points in the closing minutes of the half – lock Jon Kpoku’s try and a conversion and penalty from 18-year-old Costelow – and narrow the gap to just two points at the interval.
Kicks being charged down was an unwanted feature of the Reds’ performance, and another one occurred in the opening seconds of the second half, sparking home hopes that Ampthill might take the lead. But the Jersey pack secured a scrum penalty which helped clear the danger, and were soon pressing on the Ampthill line for more points of their own.
A rolling maul was heading in the right direction before Harris sheared off and went close. Then Jones had a dart himself, and finally Harris regathered and smashed his way through to score.
The home side looked for a quick response, but an attack broke down when Morgan stepped forward to snaffle an interception that saw him race 60 metres to score.
A 16-point margin looked a handy one, but again Ampthill roared back with two tries in three minutes. Bercis claimed his second from close range, then a chip ahead by dual-registered Saracens centre Elliot Obatoyinbo eluded the covering Will Homer thanks to a wicked bounce and was gathered by Sam Baker, who fed Louis Grimoldby for the try.
Once again the lead was just two, and again the Reds regrouped and struck again. The first score was a penalty try that saw Amps’ replacement hooker Aleki Lutui shown yellow, and then something far more spectacular.
Kyle Hatherell stole lineout ball from ths hosts near his own 22 and after Morgan tidied up the loose ball, the Reds looked to counter. Jones, Dyer and Newey quickly fed the ball to Brendan Owen, who raced across the 22 before finding Auguy Slowik near halfway. The full-back continued the momentum, and when he was brought down just short Homer was on hand to pick up the loose ball and finish the job.
Ampthill still didn’t lie down, claiming their fifth try through Costelow, and the tempo of the game remained high as the light faded and the referee eventually called time.
Ampthill & District (1-15)
Soane Tonga’huiha, Dave Ward (capt) (YC 20), Matt Collins, Jon Kpoku, Shay Kerry, Syd Blackmore, Joe Bercis, Sam Hudson; Kevin Barrett, Sam Costelow; Sam Baker, Louis Grimoldby, Elliot Obatoyinbo, Josh Gillespie; Freddie Steward.
Ma’ama Molitika (for Blackmore, 38 mins), Luvuyo Pupuma (Collins 46), Aleki Lutui (YC 65) (Ward 55), Ben Onyeama-Christie (Tonga’huiha 55), Henri Williams (Kerry 55), Leon Fukofuka (Barrett 57), Karim Lynch (Steward 79), Kwadu Asiedu (Baker 79)
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Roy Godfrey, TJ Harris, Alec Clarey, Charlie Beckett, Rory Bartle, Conor Joyce, Josh Bainbridge (capt), Janco Venter; Luc Jones, Greg Dyer; Brendan Owen, James Newey, George Spencer, Alex Morgan; Auguy Slowik.
Will Homer (for Jones, 45 mins) Jake Upfield (Joyce 53), Kyle Hatherell (Beckett 57), Harry Morley (Godfrey 65), Leeroy Atalifo (Clarey 65), Nic Dolly (Harris 68), Max Argyle (Bainbridge 72), Jack Stapley (Newey 75).
REFEREE: Jack Makepeace. Assistants: John Meredith, Nigel Carrick
Half Time: 17-19
Tries: Bercis (1, 54), Ipoku (37), Grimoldby (57), Costelow (74)
Conversions: Costelow (2, 38, 55, 58, 75)
Penalty: Costelow (31)
Tries: Bainbridge (5), Harris (11, 46), Penalty Try (20, 65), Morgan (49), Homer (67)
Conversions: Dyer (12, 47, 50, 68)
/*picture courtesy Actuance Images*/