South opened the season at home versus Ampthill.

South Leicester 1st XV entertained Bedfordshire visitors Ampthill to the real Welford Road. The visitors have been level transferred into N3M from the London SE division where they were very successful last season.
A third place finish, like South, missing out on the play off place by points difference to Tunbridge Juddian.
Ampthill finished level on league points, albeit with one less victory.

South gave debuts in the backs to Gareth Kerr, Will Cave, Andy Gates, Danny Graney and Joe Glover while in the pack Keiran Stone and Will Ward opened their South account.
Returnee Josh Mclaurin, Connor Smith and Rod McNaughton made up the bench. Up to 12 rolling substitutions will be allowed per game this season so the strength of the bench was not to be underestimated. Some changes in the referee’s calls at scrummage time were also evident.

In pleasant conditions and a healthy crowd the game kicked off at a pace with both sides vying for supremacy up front. It was not a place for the feint hearted as huge carries were made by both sets of forwards to gain territory and release their dangerous back divisions. Chris Bale and Andy Gates were prominent for South as was Jonathan Raven for Ampthill.
The stalemate was broken when South scored first through Joe Glover as he stroked over a penalty. Almost immediately Elliott Clement-Hill added a penalty of his own to level the score.
South lost prop Keiran Stone to a hamstring injury replaced by Rod McNaughton while Josh Mclaurin succumbed to a yellow card as defences dominated and both sides struggled to make a breakthrough.
The tackling was ferocious and a number of niggly incidents broke out as neither side would take a backward step.

Half time was reached level at 3-3 with the visitors just edging the territorial battle.

Ampthill quickly added two more penalties by Clement-Hill as South were penalised at the breakdown and/or were marched back for player vocal contributions. Glover missed a penalty for South on the hour, but Clement-Hill added a further penalty to extend Ampthill’s lead to nine points.
Will Cave provided a deft chip, catch and chase to break out of defence while Wes Cartwright was unlucky not to latch onto a pass with the line beckoning as South responded well in this period of play. The aforementioned Bale and Gates were again stopped close to the visitors line when South were camped in the red zone. A heel against the head by hooker Luke Coltman from a scrummage kept the pressure on the visitors
as South surged forward using their dynamic rolling maul.
Blatantly Ampthill dropped the maul under severe pressure, but the referee missed it and the chance for a penalty try was gone. To add insult to injury South were penalised for their vocal frustration and found themselves back in defence deep in their own half.
As late as the 82nd minute Ampthill eventually breached the South defence to add an unconverted try, not before a visiting player had run into touch in the build up. Again missed by the referee. The home crowd on that side of the pitch made their feelings known in no uncertain terms, but to no effect.
Clement–Hill added his fifth penalty as late as the 85th minute to conclude the scoring.

Generally the score flattered the visitors, but South only had themselves to blame for conceding too many kickable penalties regardless of the fact that they didn’t get the rub of the green from the referee.
Ampthill are a very robust, aggressive side who play on the edge – perhaps South need to up the ante and replicate that approach for the future!
That future, however, does look bright for South and the when the squad fully gels together (remember seven players made their debut) they will be a force in this league. For the first time in a number of years South have strength in depth in virtually all positions which will be crucial throughout the season.
Despite yesterday’s loss, the season is a marathon not a sprint and I’m sure South will be there or there about’s at its conclusion.
On this showing so will Ampthill!

Squad: Clarke, Kerr, Cave, Gates, Holmes, Graney, Glover, Bale C, Cartwight, Miller, Bale S, Ward, Harris, Coltman ©, Stone, McLaurin, McNaughton, Smith.

Star men: Chris Bale, Will Cave and Joe Glover.