Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Ampthill steal in at the death to deny the Bulls in close shield encounter

AN ability to close out a game when leading is a quality the Bulls have

AN ability to close out a game when leading is a quality the Bulls have yet to acquire as they once again narrowly lost out in their latest Zoo Shield Division 1 clash on Saturday.

The Bulls have played on some poor playing surfaces in recent weeks away from home but the Regatta Meadow provided a firm platform that suits their pace-packed backs division.

Within nine minutes of the kick-off scrum-half Spencer Goggin took a quick penalty on halfway and darted through the first line of retreating defenders as captain and fly-half Adam Lubbock exploded onto Goggin’s right shoulder with an angled run bursting the remaining defence and sprinting in to score the opener. Lubbock stroked the angled conversion home for a 7-0 lead.

Ampthill were quick to respond with their first try, using a driving line-out in the Bulls’ danger zone to good effect as they have proven in past encounters but failed to land the conversion.

Close to the break Ampthill were pressing for a second when wing Matt Dickens collected a fumbled pass on his own goal-line and evaded several tackles within the 10 metre area before sprinting clear to halfway before being stopped by the scramble defence.

The Bulls won the ruck and Theo Vukasinovic advanced upfield feeding number eight Samir Karbouch who stormed up the wide channel and off-loaded to prop Harry Jackson who smashed his way over in the left corner. Lubbock’s conversion held up in the strong breeze.

Ampthill’s half-backs proved an ever present threat but they soon reverted to a tighter game using their pack to bully their way into scoring territory and force their way over via a more direct route and scored a second try which again went unconverted. With the score at 12-10 the Bulls restarted with some venom and forced a penalty within easy range for Lubbock to stretch the lead to 15-10.

Wing Ross Lewis brought the Bulls up to halfway after the Bulls’ pack had ploughed a furrow and Patrick George and centre partner Will Franklyn both carried short distances but occupied enough defenders for Goggin to spot an opportunity close in to feed tight-head Sam Beckett to his left with a lone defender to beat. Beckett blasted through the tackle and dabbed down for the third try. Lubbock added the two points for a 22-10 lead with 19 minutes remaining.

Ampthill had fought their way back to a narrow victory in the away fixture and proved that this was no fluke.

The Bulls lost Patrick George to a yellow card as a result of mounting infringements at the breakdown. Their desperate attempts to stop Ampthill using their dangerous mauling strategy from attacking line-outs and direct approach now became all the more difficult and in George’s absence Ampthill proved the extra man to be an advantage, scoring two converted tries through repetitive forward attrition until the Bulls exhausted their manpower in repelling them. Ampthill took a 24-22 lead with four minutes remaining.

With George restored to the line-up the Bulls pressed for a winner but their attacking line-out was less precise than in the opening 60 minutes as the effort of trying to keep Ampthill out began to take a toll.

The Bulls forced a late penalty with a minute remaining but although Lubbock had the distance he was beaten by the angle and the whistle blew much to Ampthill’s relief.

Henley Bulls: Harry Jackson, Luke Watts, Sam Beckett, Theo Vukasinovic, Sam Middleton, Conor Stapley, Rory McMeekan, Samir Karbouch, Spencer Goggin, Adam Lubbock, Ross Lewis, Patrick George, Will Franklyn, Matt Dickens, Conor Corrigan, Replacements all used: Will James, Liam John, Warren Higgins, Harry Challoner.

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