COVENTRY RFC suffered a narrow 27-21 defeat in the first leg of their Championship Cup clash with Ampthill to leave the tie finely poised heading into the decider.
The visitors were beaten by six points as Jordon Poole, Ryan Burrows and James Martin all crossed for Coventry at Dillingham Park.
And Coventry made a flying start when Poole drove over the line from a maul after just two minutes after Josh Bainbridge collected well at a lineout with Evan Mitchell easily slotting the conversion.
The away side doubled their lead on eight minutes when Burrows crashed over in his final Championship Cup campaign after Mitchell superbly tipped the ball over his own head into his path before adding the extras.
However, Ampthill responded with a converted try on 15 minutes when Ben Cambriani scored from a chip and chase after Coventry failed to find touch from a penalty in windy conditions.
Coventry then had Matt Johnson sent to the sin bin for obstruction and dangerous play and Ampthill thought they had scored again when Cambriani touched down only for the referee to blow for a forward pass in the lead up to the try.
This led to both Louis Brown and Cambriani being sent to the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct after the pair scrapped underneath the posts in the aftermath of the disallowed try.
Coventry’s lead was further reduced by a late Ampthill penalty at the end of the first half to send the visitors into the break with a four-point advantage.
And Ampthill completed the turnaround on 43 minutes when they crossed in the corner for an unconverted score.
The home side extended their lead when Lewis Finlay scored underneath the posts after Josh Hallett broke the line with the successful conversion leaving Coventry two scores behind.
However, Coventry grabbed their third try just a few minutes later when Martin finished under the sticks from Louis James’ offload with Tony Fenner adding the extras.
Coventry’s Suva Ma’asi was sent to the sin bin late on and Ampthill made their man advantage count when they struck from a driving maul in the final few seconds.
The second leg takes place on Saturday, April 23 with kick-off at 3pm at Butts Park Arena.