AMPTHILL 24 CANTERBURY 31
A late try from Peter Kelly crowned a performance of resilience and skill from Canterbury as the league leaders were pushed all the way before extending their unbeaten run to ten games.
This was by some distance the hardest earned victory of the season but superior fitness and belief made the city club deserved winners after coming from twelve points behind in the second half.
Ampthill, always lively and competitive, conceded 26 points after the break as possession dried up and their legs gradually betrayed them, but their ability to make the most of defensive lapses ensured Canterbury were always within their sights.
They resisted early city pressure by astute defending and, against the run of play, took the lead with a smart try from Jon Raven. A pin-point cross kick by fly half Gavin Williams landed in the arms of impressive wing Kyle Palm who found his centre in support.
It wasn' t until the second quarter that Canterbury created the gap that pressure and territorial superiority had promised when Martyn Beaumont made the most of Paul Brown's long pass to dive in at the right corner.
Raven, running a good angle, restored Ampthill's lead before half time with his second try, converted by Williams, but it was a score two minutes after the break that threatened to spoil Canterbury's afternoon.
A throw to the front of an attacking lineout caught the city defence slumbering and hooker Bryce Titman did the rest.
When Canterbury look back they may judge their response to an ominous situation as being one of the season's defining moments. The pack, who never took a backward step, gathered huge momentum as they wiped out the Ampthill lineout, gaps started to appear in the home defence and with half backs Dave Marshall and Tom Best pulling the strings the back division took on a new menace.
A trademark catch and drive try from Peter Kelly heralded the revival. Best, for the second time, hit a post with a conversion attempt from wide out but was left with simple kick for the next score.
Clever inter-play between centres Juan Del Val and Brown sent the New Zealander over close to the posts and at 17-17 the earlier damage had been repaired.
Canterbury promptly handed Ampthill an unexpected lifeline - and the lead - by throwing a loose pass which ended in a try for wing Ben Brierley and a Williams conversion.
That self induced blow was offset by expert handling from the city backs who with ten minutes remaining created an overlap for Ricky Mackintosh, leaving Best's conversion to level the scores again.
As Canterbury continued their push the fly half was narrowly wide with two penalty attempts but in a grand finale Ampthill once again cracked under pressure.
The top quality and match winning try was the fruit of patient build up as Best's inside flick to Kelly in mid-field saw the flanker and stand-in captain for the injured Mike Melford sprint through an inviting gap. A third conversion from Best completed the rejuvenation process which, at one point, had seemed a long way off.
Canterbury: M.Beaumont, R.Mackintosh, J.Del Val, P.Brown, N.Van Mol, T.Best, D.Marshall (repl N.Woodbridge), J.Green (repl S.Goode), T.Rogers, M.Pinnick, R.Keir (repl M.Lister), C.Hinkins, G.Micans, P.Kelly, W.Baars.