1st Jul, 2022

RUGBY UNION - Coventry RFC edge out 14-man Ampthill in cup thriller to reach quarter-finals

COVENTRY RFC advanced to the Championship Cup quarter-finals with a 52-49 aggregate win against 14-man Ampthill in a thrilling clash at Butts Park Arena.

Rhys Thomas, Fred Betteridge and Suva Ma’asi all crossed for Coventry before Tony Fenner kicked the game-clinching penalty late on to secure a 31-22 victory on the day.

Coventry were beaten 27-21 in the first leg at Dillingham Park and needed to overturn a six-point deficit to reach the quarter-finals.

However, Ampthill made a fast start and scored two tries inside the opening six minutes through Ben Cambriani and Theo Dan to race into a 12-point lead.

The home side scored the game’s crucial third try when Thomas dotted down on 16 minutes on his return from injury after some patient play in the Ampthill 22 with Evan Mitchell slotting the conversion.

And Betteridge turned the game on its head on 31 minutes when he collected the ball from the ruck before touching down after captain Jordon Poole broke from one end of the pitch to the other with Mitchell adding the extras.

The hosts were handed an additional boost on 34 minutes when Ampthill’s Paddy Ryan was shown a red card for a head-on-head collision involving front-row Matt Johnson.

And Ampthill’s try scorer Dan was then sent to the sin bin for persistent penalty infringements as Coventry led 14-12 at half time.

Despite the away side starting the second period with 13-men, Ampthill spurned a chance to reclaim the lead after a penalty attempt sailed wide of the posts.

And the visitors looked set for a quarter-final place when Tom Bacon scored Ampthill’s third try from Dan’s offload.

Coventry refused to be beaten and Ma’asi restored the home side’s lead from a maul shortly after with Fenner impressively adding the conversion.

And Coventry took an aggregate lead on 70 minutes when Bainbridge collected Fenner’s offload before grounding the ball in style with the latter’s conversion handing the hosts an 11-point lead.

However, Ampthill levelled the tie on 76 minutes when Cambriani scored his second try of the afternoon to set up a thrilling finale.

And veteran Fenner scored the decisive penalty in his final season as a professional to secure victory for Coventry and settle a dramatic contest.

Coventry will play Doncaster Knights in the quarter-finals in another two-legged tie.

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