1st XV Match Preview V Ampthill (A) Sat 01/10/2016 

by Glyn Barlow

 

Well, four from four and off to Bedfordshire we go this weekend. But it’s not our usual trip to Goldington Road to take on the Blues but their near neighbours Ampthill who are our opponents.

 

Ampthill or Ampthill & District Community RUFC to give the club its full title can trace its origins back to 1881, the club in its current form being created in 1950.

 

In the last ten years the club has risen rapidly from Midlands 3 East (South), winning promotion into National One in 2015. In their first season in National One the team finished a very impressive forth, equal on points with Blackheath and just one point off second place Hartpury College. During the campaign Ampthill won 20 of their 30 fixtures, and picked up 14 try bonus points along the way.

 

This season the squad, under head coach Paul Turner, includes a familiar face to Birmingham Moseley supporters in Joe Bercis who spent last season at Billesley Common making 11 appearances. Bercis packs down with Tongan International Prop Viliami Ma’asi, fellow Tongan back row Maama Molitika and former Leicester Tigers & Worcester Warriors second row Ben Gulliver.

 

New players drafted in for the 2016/17 season include centre Peter Weightman from Coventry, back row Haloti Molitika (brother of Maama), also from Coventry, England U20 centre Sam Hanks from Cinderford, Fijian centre Oris Nawaqalive from Nottingham and Italy A scrum half Mickey Wilson from Esher.

 

Ampthill currently sit in sixth place in National One having beaten Rosslyn Park last weekend 24-15, Old Albanian 17-18 and Loughborough Students 29-37. Their one reversal to date being a 20-39 loss to Darlington Mowden Park. The league matches have come off the back of a successful pre-season with wins over South Leicester (7-24), Bridgend (43-15) and a close fought loss to Championship side Jersey (35-22).

 

For Birmingham Moseley the challenge on Saturday is to start the game the way they played the second half against Blaydon. Rarely has there been a game of two halves at the Common as last weekend’s fixture.  Admittedly Birmingham Moseley played into a strong “breeze” in the first half which will have had an impact. It cannot however excuse all the handling errors and wayward kicks that occurred. As the half progressed the team began to find some cohesion but still turned around 3-13 down. To then score 38 unanswered points in the second half is pretty remarkable, indeed many supporters were found reaching for their programmes to check there hadn’t been fifteen substitutions at half time.

 

The transformation was delivered by the team suddenly finding a new level of precision in their execution of moves and an ability to deliver at a considerably increased pace. It’s fair to say that Blaydon found it impossible to live with this intensity of play, and six tries followed.

 

A number of players made impressive contributions with the back row to the fore. Jacques Le Roux was immense and Harry Hone had his best game in a red & black shirt. Jack Preece was everywhere, marauding at the breakdown. In the backs Tim Molenaar just continues to get better and better and with Elliot Bale hopefully back at fly half this week it’s an interesting challenge to decide who out of Tim, Alex Grove & Greg King should start in the centres.

 

Let us hope that the second half against Blaydon represents Birmingham Moseley having found their feet in National One, ready to consolidate their position at the top end of the table.