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Bedford Blues v London Scottish
Bedford Blues started 2014 in the best possible fashion with a 21-13 win over high-flying London Scottish at Goldington Road on New Year’s Day. The weather may have suited ducks better but early tries from Mike Le Bourgeois and Nick Fenton-Wells helped Bedford establish a 15-3 half-time lead with James Pritchard – who, during the match, became the Blues all-time leading point scorer - kicking a conversion and a penalty to Lee Millar’s solitary penalty.
Bedford kept up the pressure in the second half and never looked in danger of conceding a try until Paul Tupai was sent off in the 62nd minute after an incident at a London Scottish driving maul. The visitors scored immediately to move within two points, but Pritchard saw out the game with two late penalties to deny the visitors a losing bonus point.
With rain tumbling and the wind swirling 20 minutes before kick-off, you could have forgiven the Goldington Road faithful for thinking twice about venturing outside but those that did were treated to a fine spectacle of a game which had everything.
Bedford seemed pumped and ready to go when the ref got the game underway and it was clear from the offset that keeping the Exiles pinned back in their own half was the aim of the game. Some fine tactical kicking from Mark Atkinson did just that and the visitors found it difficult to get out of their own 22.
The slippery conditions meant that there were several spills of the ball from kicks and passes while the gusty conditions saw more than one lineout ball go astray. But when the ball was in hand it was a case of making the right decision and Bedford did just that in the 12th minute when the ball came down the line to Atkinson who sent a perfect grubber kick over the try line with Le Bourgeois pouncing first and Pritchard adding the extras.
The kicking game led to another Blues attack moments later when Atkinson again sent a high one which London Scottish fullback Jim Thompson couldn’t collect. A scrum followed the knock on and then a loud blast of the ref’s whistle saw the visitors penalised and Atkinson sent the ball to touch in the Exiles 22. From there it was a try for the forwards. Wave after wave of pick and go rugby followed before Fenton-Wells crashed over on the left wing. There was no conversion but 12-0 looked good after 18 minutes.
London Scottish fly half Lee Millar pulled three points back after the Blues were penalised at a driving maul and despite a missed penalty attempt from Atkinson a minute before the interval, Pritchard restored the 12 point lead with a straight-forward penalty as the clock struck 40.
Going down the slope in the second half, Bedford continued to look confident in their abilities and didn’t give up much ground to the visitors. Pritchard missed a penalty attempt in the 46th minute and then Millar hit one of his own five minutes later to make the score 15-6. Pritchard again could quite find the range with a 54th minute effort but then the game turned on its head for the Blues.
London Scottish had gained possession of the ball following a lineout in the Blues 22 and their packs had worked hard to make some ground. Bedford’s forwards rallied to try and prevent the attack but something sparked off between Tupai and the Exiles prop Eric Fry. Fists were raised and, after a consultation with the assistant referee, the red card was shown to Tupai.
The ball went to the Blues five metre line and from the resulting lineout Mark Bright trundled his way over to score with a fine conversion from Millar making it 15-13.
Knowing the battle upfront was an important one, Corey Hircock – who had played well throughout the game – was sacrificed with Ben Gulliver making up the numbers in the scrum. Despite being down to 14, the Blues continued to frustrate the opposition and started to collect more and more penalties. Atkinson missed a drop goal attempt, but the Blues had the advantage so Pritchard chipped the ball over to make it 18-13.
With time ticking away and the Blues setting up camp in the Scottish half, the visitors were again penalised and Pritchard took full advantage to see 80 minutes appear on the referees whistle before sending the ball over the uprights and denying London Scottish a losing bonus point.
HAPPY NEW YEAR – COME ON YOU BLUES!!!
Pictures by Nigel Rudgard - see more Bedford Blues snaps at http://frontrow.photium.com/