By Haden Tye
Albion beat Ampthill 19-14 at Brickfields in their final home game of the season to secure second-place in National League One.
Kieran Hallett’s men entertained the second-highest crowd of the season at Brickfields as Tom Cowan-Dickie, Ed Holmes and Rupert Cooper all scored tries to help Albion to an 11th consecutive win that meant they would definitely finish above their opponents in the league.
Hallett made four changes from the side that beat Macclesfield 18-21 last week for Albion’s tenth consecutive win, with Dan Pullinger returning to the side in place of Will Norton, Nile Dacres included instead of Dan Collier, and Herbie Stupple who would be marking his 100th Albion game against Ampthill and George Mills coming in for Rupert Cooper and Sam Daly.
Albion had come unstuck against Ampthill away from home earlier in the season and whilst this game had no meaningful implications for either side, it would more than likely determine who would finish the season in second-place. The blistering sun coated the fine Brickfields turf for one last time which was a fitting end to an exciting season for Albion.
The first-half proved to be a tight tussle that left both teams struggling to gain an edge on their opponent. Ampthill nearly took the lead with an early penalty, but Steffan Jones’ kick went wide of the posts.
Albion continued to battle away against a physical Ampthill side, but the visitors took the lead just before half-time. A quick offload left the oncoming Karim Lynch to burst past the Albion defence and put the ball down under the posts. Steffan Jones added the extras.
The lead lasted for a matter of minutes. Tom Cowan-Dickie launched the ball in from an Albion line-out, and then joined the resulting maul and powered his way over the try-line on the left. Shepherd converted to make the scores level at half-time.
Ampthill nearly opened the second-half scoring in the same way that they nearly opened the first-half scoring, but again Jones’ penalty kick went wide of the posts.
Ten minutes into the second-half, Albion finally got themselves ahead. Once again, a Cowan-Dickie line-out cause problems for Ampthill, this time Albion’s maul allowed Ed Holmes to get on the scoresheet, albeit he hurt himself in the process and was replaced with Rupert Cooper. Shepherd converted again.
Ampthill found their way back into the game the same way they had taken the lead, as Karim Lynch received a fast offload and waltzed his way to the try-line to put under the posts. This time Michael Wilson converted for the visitors.
With just over five minutes to play, Albion dealt the killer blow.
With Ampthill a man down after Ben Gulliver had been sin-binned, Albion’s pressure paid off. Some good work down the left then switched to a more central position, and Rupert Cooper received the ball near the try-line and forced his way over to put Albion ahead again.
Albion had to do a little bit of defending towards the closing moments of the game, with Shepherd picking up a yellow card whilst defending deep in Albion’s 22, but Albion held on for the victory.
The win marks Herbie Stupple’s 100th appearance for the club, Albion’s 11th consecutive league win and a second-place finish in the league for Albion.
It was a lovely way to round off the season at Brickfields, and whilst their is still Blackheath and Cambridge left to play away from home and no chance of promotion, you can’t help but feel that the good atmosphere around the club will continue into next season.
Maybe then, Albion will go one better.
First team: 15 Dan Powell, 14 Matthew Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harry Strong, 11 Robin Wedlake, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Matthew Shepherd, 1 Billy Keast, 2 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 3 Daniel Pullinger, 4 Nile Dacres, 5 Ed Holmes, 6 Dan Williams, 7 George Mills, 8 Herbie Stupple (c).
Replacements: 16 Will Norton, 17 Rupert Freestone, 18 Rupert Cooper, 19 Sam Daly, 20 Kieran Hallett.
T: Tom Cowan-Dickie 42, Ed Holmes 50, Rupert Cooper 74.
C: Matthew Shepherd 42, 50.
Booked: Matthew Shepherd 79.
First Team: 15 Karim Lynch, 14 Peter Weightman, 13 Elliott Reeder, 12 Will Goodge, 11 Nigel Baker, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Alexander Mitchell, 1 James Wright, 2 Aleki Lutui, 3 Matt Collins, 4 Paino Hehea, 5 Ben Gulliver, 6 Sid Blackmore, 7 Joseph Bercis, 8 Maama Molitika (c).
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Ben Wilkinson, 18 William Allman, 19 Samuel Hanks, 20 Michael Wilson.
T: Karim Lynch 38, 57.
C: Steffan Jones 38, Michael Wilson 57.