Adam Frampton’s last-gasp score broke Ampthill’s resolve at the Rock to give hand Park a first win in three games, and ensure they kept up with the leading pack in National with a 17-10 victory.
After defeat to Blackheath in their previous home game, and then a comprehensive defeat in the north-west to bogey team Fylde, Buckland’s men had a point to prove against the league newcomers.
Yet, despite a promising start, they fell behind early on when Will Maisey managed to cling onto a fizzing Brett Herron pass that was intended for Park centre Matt Hawke outside him. The Ampthill fly-half ran the length to dot down under the sticks, Elliot Clements-Hill adding the extras.
To their credit, Park refused to let the early setback affect them, and with Herron looking to play as flat as possible to allow the runners outside him to exploit the lack of reaction time in the Ampthill defence, it looked as though the hosts would reply sooner rather than later.
A Whiteley penalty got them deservedly on the board but Ampthill were showing all the qualities that not only got them promoted from National Two South in style last year, but had already seen them prove more than handful to established level three sides this year.
Mackey and Hawke were becoming increasingly influential in midfield but upfront in Tonga international Lutui and hulking no.8 Darrell Dyer, Paul Turner’s charges were more than a handful.
Herron eventually set-up Park’s opener, quickening the pace at the right moment, but being hauled down a couple of metres out. Lovejoy Chawatama was on hand to scoop up and roll over – his first try in Park colours.
Whiteley nudged Park ahead, only for Clements-Hill to reply in kind and see the sides head in at the break level at 10 apiece.
The second half was dominated by the home side but was, for 41 minutes, met by some dogged, inspired and courageous Ampthill defending. Losing Ralph Adam-Hale and Brendan Burke to the bin in quick succession did not seem to unduly bother the men from the Midlands and with time seemingly up, Park threw only last wave of bodies forward.
It was one of the new boys in Frampton, who joined in the summer from Welsh Principality Premiership club Newport, who was to be the hero, crashing over from a metre out to give Park the spoils – deservedly – and break Ampthill hearts.
After the game, James Buckland spoke of his pleasure in seeing his boys dig deep to secure a much needed victory, but urged cautious optimism ahead of the trip to Coventry on Saturday.
“We needed a reaction today, and we got one,” he said.
“We stuck at it right the way through and by playing right to the death we got our reward. Heads might have dropped after we butchered three opportunities in the opposite corner to the one where we scored minutes before, but the energy remained high.
“There’s plenty to work and build on but the boys worked their socks off in training this week, and they deserved that.
“It’s going to be another real test of our metal on Saturday at Coventry, but it’s another opportunity to gauge where we as a group and it’ll will shine a spotlight on the strength of not our playing ability, but also on the mental side.”
Mo Sher (@MSSher1)
October 19, 2015