Bedford Blues v Jersey
Bedford Blues produced a master class in forward play as they beat Jersey 38-21 at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.
Having lost their last two Championship fixtures, the Blues claimed a much-needed win over a Jersey side that had not won away from home in the league this season
It was the home side that took the initiative in a tight first period as James Pritchard kicked three penalties, while Neil Cochrane scored the game’s first try.
Former Blue Ross Broadfoot did kick three penalties for Jersey, but it was Bedford who led 14-9 at half time.
And the Blues put in an excellent performance after the break as they ran in four more tries. Cochrane got his second, while Jake Sharp, Mark Atkinson and Ben Gulliver helped secure a bonus point victory.
Jersey did score twice through Nicky Griffiths and Guy Thompson, but the damage had already been done.
Bedford made just minor changes to the side that demoished Bedwas last time out. There were starts for Neil Cochrane and Ben Cooper in the front row, while leading try scorer Josh Bassett started on the wing.
The match started at a frantic pace and the opening five minutes saw the two sides trade penalties.
An early offside gave Pritchard the chance to put his side in front, but the scores were level minutes after as Broadfoot converted one of his own.
It was end-to-end stuff and Pritchard converted his second penalty just after the restart as the visitors failed to roll away in the tackle.
The Islanders were again next to score as a strong maul from a lineout earnt them precious territory up field.
The Blues pack struggled to contain them and, when they came in at the side, a penalty was conceded that Broadfoot converted.
Jersey then took the lead as a series of retaken scrums saw Bedford concede another penalty that Broadfoot slotted between the uprights.
But the home side were not behind for long as they scored the first try of the afternoon.
The Blues’ forwards started a maul on Jersey’s 22 and drove them right back to their own try-line, which enabled Cochrane to scramble the ball over.
Pritchard missed the conversion, but he made amends right on half time as he converted a penalty after Chris Levesley failed to release in the tackle as he saw yellow for his troubles.
The Blues led 14-9 at half time, but had to play up the slope in the second period.
However, that did not seem to affect them and they started the second period magnificently as Sharp capped off a fine move.
James Stephenson’s piercing run up field got it started and the ball was then worked to Sharp who went over by the touchline.
Pritchard missed the conversion from a tight angle, while Broadfoot failed to reduce the deficit for his side as his penalty chance went wide.
And Bedford punished them as they grabbed a third try. After winning a lineout five metres from the Jersey line the Blues pack showed real strength and determination to force the opposition back as hooker Cochrane again touched down and Pritchard added the extras.
But Jersey were not dead and buried just yet as the impressive Thompson set up Griffiths to score with a superb offload as he looked to be heading for touch.
Broadfoot’s successful conversion meant there were just 10 points in it with the Islanders looking buoyant.
Nevertheless, Bedford’s defence was showing no signs of breaking as Jersey started to take the game to them.
And the pressure was lifted when replacement scrum-half Luke Baldwin broke free from the Jersey defence, before combining with Atkinson who put the ball underneath the posts.
There was still time for a fifth Bedford try of the afternoon as the Blues forwards once again bullied the Islanders back towards their own line and Gulliver went over to score his first try for the club.
As the clock ticked past 80 minutes Thompson scored an unconverted try, but the Blues triumphed as they moved back up to second in the Championship table following Nottingham’s 25-13 defeat at London Scottish
Blues: Ricky Reeves (Dan Seal 65), Neil Cochrane (Chris Locke 77), Ben Cooper (Phil Boulton 61), Mike Howard, Ben Gulliver, Gregor Gillanders, Tom Armes (Darren Fox 61), Don Barrell (Joe Vandermolen 56), Darryl Veenendaal (Luke Baldwin 61), Jake Sharp, Josh Bassett, Mark Atkinson, Ollie Dodge (Brendan Burke 74), James Stephenson, James Pritchard (C). T: Cochrane 2, Sharp, Atkinson, Gulliver. C: Pritchard 2. P: Pritchard 3.
Jersey: Richard Barrington (Sean McCarthy 48), Dave Felton (Charlie Clare 48), Jon Brennan (James Gethings 67), Nathan Hannay, Dave Markham, Kingsley Lang (Talite Vaioleti 75), Joe Buckle (Fred Silcock 56), Guy Thompson, Nicky Griffiths (C), Ross Broadfoot, Chris Levesley (Ashley Maggs 71), Tom Cooper, Max Stelling, Ed Dawson, Mike Le Bourgeois. Replacements not used: Dave McCormack. T: Griffiths, Thompson. C: Broadfoot. P: Broadfoot 3.
Referee: Greg MacDonald.
Touch Judges: Rowan Kitt and James Minards.