AMPTHILL 52 PLYMOUTH ALBION 13
PLYMOUTH Albion will not be in a hurry to visit Ampthill again after an afternoon to forget in Bedfordshire.
The city side, whose whole future is up in the air after they gave notice of their intention to go into administration, suffered their biggest defeat of the season at Dillingham Park.
They conceded eight tries – three in the first half and five in the second.
It was just a day for Graham Dawe and his team to forget.
After an early start, the team got stuck in traffic chaos around Bedfordshire due to the closure of part of the M1 and arrived late for the match.
Already without captain Jake Murphy, hooker Rupert Freestone and winger Ethan Ford, Albion then lost Cameron Setter, Ed Holmes, Harrison Cully and James Penman to injuries during the game.
Director of rugby Dawe, though, refused to make any excuses for the heavy defeat, which has ended any hopes they had of finishing top.
He also insisted he didn’t think his players had been unsettled by the club’s off-the-field problems.
It was Albion’s first defeat since the start of January and their first on their travels since November. It has dropped them down from third to fifth in the National One table.
Although Ampthill scored more tries in the second half, the game turned with two controversial scores in four minutes in the first period.
That put the home team 21-3 in front and they never looked back, whereas Albion’s confidence, composer and game management just disappeared as they tried to chase the match.
Albion were forced to make three changes to their team that beat Blackheath in their last outing.
Winger Ford has returned to Australia, captain Murphy was ruled out with a broken hand and hooker Freestone was away with the England Students squad.
In their absence, Cully, Marc Koteczky and Penman came into the team. Ollie Dawe also return to the squad following injury. He started on the bench, alongside fellow teenager Tom Putt, who had been recalled from a loan spell at Newton Abbot.
Ampthill included former Plymouth players Ben Gulliver and Elliot Clements-Hill in their team.
Albion, after their marathon journey, got a great start when Ampthill were penalised returning the kick-off and Matt Shepherd went for goal and put the ball between the uprights to give his side a 3-0 lead.
From the restart, the visitors had to defend well to deny their hosts. Albion had a good few minutes after that but gradually Ampthill started to dominate proceedings.
And the home side took the lead in the 16th minute while Plymouth were down to 14 fit players with Cameron Setter injured. Ampthill pressed hard down the left with their big forwards before then switching the ball quickly and with the extra man they had an overlap which full-back Karim Lynch exploit to score.
That gave the hosts confidence, but Albion were dealing with what they had to throw at them until the Bedfordshire side were awarded a controversial try.
International hooker Aleki Lutui knocked on attacking. Everyone was waiting for the scrum, even Lutui, but the referee played on and fly-half Joe Tarrant went over under the posts to give Clements-Hill added easy conversion.
Albion then gave away a penalty and Ampthill went for the corner. From the line-out, the home side went inside. It looked like they had been a forward pass but it was not given and Lutui scored to make it 21-3.
Those two tries were crucial as it took the game away from Albion, who were then well and truly chasing the match.
Shepherd could have got them some more points on the board but he missed a kick at goal on 35 minutes before Holmes limped off.
At 21-3 down at the break, Albion needed a good start to the second half but they did not get it with Jon Morgan scoring in the opening minute to push Ampthill 28-3 in front.
Stupple gave Plymouth some hope with a try on the right after good pressure near the posts, but that hope was ended pretty quickly when Matt Burke was driven over from a line-out move.
Clements-Hill then went over after the visitors failed to gather a kick forward cleanly. He also converted to make it 40-8.
Flanker Darrel Dyer showed good pace to add a seventh before former Cornish Pirates player Vili Ma’asi was deemed to have scored in the right corner despite a tackle from Tom Putt.
Deep in injury-time Sam Matavesi went over for his first try of the season but it was no more than a consolation effort.
Albion now have to pick themselves up for the visit of relegation-threatened Wharfedale next weekend. Wharfedale narrowly lost 22-21 to leaders Richmond on Saturday.
Ampthill: K Lynch (E Reeder 66), E Clements-Hill, W Maisey, W Goodge, J Morgan, J Tarrant, K Barratt (G Williams 68), J Culverhouse (M Collins 48), A Lutui (capt), M Collins (V Ma’asi 40), B Gulliver (B Wilkinson 73), K O’Neill (P Henea 40), D Dyer, M Burke (K O’Neill 56), M Molitka.
Albion: M Shepherd, H Cully (S Raumakita 43), T Bedford, M Kotecky, R Wedlake, B Searle, C Setter (Tom Putt 15), D Pullinger (O Dawe 43), J Penman (D Collier 76), C Judge, D Collier (G Sebastien 56), E Holmes (A Chesters 34), N Dacres, S Matavesi, H Stupple (capt).
Scorers: Ampthill: Tries: Lynch, Tarrant, Lutui, Morgan, Burke, Clements-Hill, Dyer, Ma’asi; Cons: Clements-Hill 6
Albion: Tries: Stupple, Matavesi; Pen: Shepherd