The Reds fought back for a draw in the dying stages of this tense encounter, but both sides were left with a sense of what might have been.
The home side started strongly and three consecutive penalties enabled them to establish the platform in Ampthill’s 22 which ended with Guy Thompson scoring from a rolling maul.
The first half was an even affair and the visitors should have got points on the board, but Russell Bennett missed a brace of penalty attempts and some attacking thrusts were denied by determined Reds’ defence.
Ampthill finally broke through in the final play of the half, with Tom Hudson punching a hole through midfield, Morgan Monks following through powerfully and Austin Wallis following up to score by the posts. Bennett added a straightforward conversion to put his side in front.
A penalty awarded within 10 seconds of the resumption as Dan Barnes was penalised for rolling on the ground gave Bennett a chance to add three more points. He slotted the kick but was denied a few minutes later when his effort rebounded off the upright.
After a high penalty count in their previous outing against Doncaster Knights, the Reds were again on the wrong side of the referee, conceding an estimated 15 penalties during the 80 minutes.
When quick hands from skipper Charlie Beckett and Monks put Joe Goodchild over in the corner, and Bennett slotted a superb conversion, the game looked over. But Jersey’s replacements had a positive impact, and TJ Harris burst from the back of a maul to score, although Sam Leeming missed a relatively straightforward conversion.
Thompson’s second try with five minutes to play, converted by Leeming, put the Reds back on terms but neither side was able to engineer a winning score at the death. The Reds had an attacking lineout on their opponents’ 22 but were unable to get their maul working, and then Ampthill were just able to get the ball out of the resulting scrum as they came under extreme pressure from the home pack.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon admitted there were questions his Jersey side had to answer about their display.
“I want to know why we couldn’t play the sort of rugby we played in the last 15 minutes for the whole game,” he said. “Give Ampthill credit, they came with a game-plan of not allowing us to build any tempo and we failed to adapt to that.”
Ampthill Head Coach Paul Turner was left frustrated by his team failing to hold onto their lead at the business end of the game.
“We got to 17-5 but then everything fell apart for us in the last 10 minutes,” he said. “Our lineout went, our decision-making went, we overplayed when we’d been given a penalty and suddenly it was 17-all.
“You’d have thought getting two points in Jersey would be a good result, but I felt we left another two out there and that’s why I’m disappointed.”
Pic: Rich Chapman
JERSEY REDS: Owen B (Simmons 61), Olowofela, Holgate, Barnes (Roberts 45), Brown; Leeming, Elliott; Flynn (Owen H 64), Clarke (Harris 52-77), Yendle (Higgins 67), Farrance (O’Connor 47), Cook, Argyle (Humfrey 47), Wynne (c) (White 61), Thompson.
AMPTHILL: Smith; Goodchild, Hudson, Hartley, Skelcey; Bennett, Fenley; Jack (Crean 55), Dan (Harding 64), Lutui (Seward 45), Beckett (c) (Burgess 77), Jones, Arthur (Wilkinson 55), Wallis, Monks. Not used: Wynn, Sharp, Dunn
REFEREE: Joe James. Assistants: Dean Richards, Simon Park
Half Time: 5-7
Tries: Thompson 7, 75, Harris 70
Conversion: Leeming 75
Tries: Wallis 40, Goodchild 66
Conversions: Bennett 40, 66
Penalty: Bennett 41
Why not come a chillout in the supporters marquee before the game, A fully stocked bar and food is available, seated and standing tables, on a first come first served basis and a great place to meet the Reds supporters.