The Bulls preseason preparation is set to be as testing as any previous season with Ampthill 1881 the visitors for their first outing since April.
A very different looking Bulls starting XV which only included 3 of the players who finished the 20116/17 campaign remaining in the Gold and Green colours whilst the Ampthill XV included 2 South Pacific Island internationals in the pack and a good spattering of National 1 experience throughout their squad.
Ampthill’s power advantage was evident from the start at the scrum in particular but for the opening 25 minutes the scoreboard was not altered as the Bulls defensive effort and organisation looked to be working well and a counter attack from Jack Robinson, who gathered a loose ball and splintered the Ampthill defence weaving a path up the right flank gave some early hope of the Bulls gaining some success in attack.
Without a recognised tight-head the Bulls pack came under enormous pressure at the set-piece and Ampthill enjoyed several turn-over plays as a result although Tom Haynes did particularly well salvaging some scruffy possession from the scrum whilst in retreat. Ampthill’s first half scores were a good mix of powerful driving maul play for the opener and slick back movement and handling which stretched and finally outflanked the Bulls defence.
Despite a somewhat flattering score-line the Bulls did enjoy some periods of possession where Luca Townshend and Will Janes started to gain a foothold and Louie Henson was denied a scoring opportunity as a deft pass from a restart was adjudged to have been slightly forward.
Ampthill bolstered their forward line even more during the second half adding both weight and experience and ensuring they remained in charge at the scrum and this certainly assisted in adding 4 more tries in the second half.
There were notable performances on their Henley debuts for Tim Hitchcock the loose-head from Ealing Academy, Adam Neal, Archie Van Dijk and Jack Robinson all recent recruits from Oxford Quins and Jordan Scott from Amersham all stood out as did Louie Henson who will spend a brief period with Henley prior to returning to Seattle in the USA.
Luke Huelin at scrum half gave a commendable performance in clearing plenty of the pressure and threat imposed by Ampthill with some accurate kicking and the newly formed Bulls pack did their best to thwart a pretty relentless peppering from the Ampthill attack and as a group seemed pleased to have had such a testing first encounter. Next for the Bulls is the visit of Oxford Quins on Thursday 24th Aug where this experience should stand them in good stead.
Tim Hitchcock (Zach Clarke 72), Louie Henson (Charlie Sichel 47), Nick Marshall, Charlie Davey, Adam Neal (Mo Bangura 60), Jordan Scott (Alex Collis 65), Scott White, Tommy Haynes ©, Luke Huelin, George Jackson (Callum Cooke 41), Jack Robinson, Luca Townshend (Jay Drew 32), Will Janes, Josh Huggins (Ash Hayden 55), Archie Van Dijk