Bedford Blues v Saracens
The score line may not look pretty but Bedford Blues will have taken plenty of positives from their final pre-season friendly against a very strong Saracens team. The Premiership and European giants ran in seven tries while the Blues only points came courtesy of a first half James Pritchard penalty but Mike Rayer’s men certainly didn’t roll over and gave the visitors plenty to think about during the 80 minutes.
An impressive 3,126 people turned up to watch the now traditional friendly encounter between the two clubs and they were treated to a full throttle affair with both teams looking to impress their supporters while never giving an inch to the opposition.
Bedford had an early opportunity to put points on the board when a kickable penalty went their way in the second minute but Sharp’s effort sailed wide of the upright. It was then Saracens turn to put the Blues under pressure and they did just that when a penalty was sent to touch by Charlie Hodgson. The lineout was collected and the pack trundled forward but it was brought down illegally and referee Dean Richards ran under the posts with Hodgson converting.
Bedford were not down-hearted by the early setback and came surging back at the visitors who were penalised for a string of infringements at the ruck. Pritchard stepped up and slotted the three points but sadly that was to be the end of the Blues scoring for the night after 17 minutes.
Former dual-registered star Will Fraser got Saracens second of the evening when lineout ball was collected by the visitors and the maul was pinned back. A quick ball found its way to the flanker who joined the back line and he crashed over with Hodgson adding the extras.
Saracens were reduced to 14 when a high Jake Sharp ball was half collected/juggled by Strettle and then Ashton. The ref called for offside much to Strettle’s annoyance and he was then carded. Bedford couldn’t make the extra man count and were then down to 14 themselves when captain Nick Fenton-Wells was given ten minutes for an infringement at the ruck. Sarries went for a quick cross kick but Nathan Earle beat Duncan Taylor in the air to stop the attack and end the half 3-14.
Saracens swapped 11 players at the interval and they caused a lot of damage in the opening exchanges after the interval. Another man to have pulled on the Blues jersey – Matt Hankin – was at the back of a driving maul to score down the right wing but Ben Spencer couldn’t convert.
Two minutes later and Saracens streaked further ahead with a fine solo effort from Tim Streather who cut a great line to score under the posts with Nils Mordt converting to make it 3-26.
Bedford continued to impress though and regularly prevented Saracens from running away with things. Earle had put in several last ditch challenges while the pack were quick to the breakdown and looking to cause Saracens a real headache.
Saracens pack were getting the upper hand at the scrum and earned their side a second penalty try which was converted in the 57th minute before Tom Whiteley dotted down after a smart run from close range – Mordt converted both.
Bedford were down to 14 men again when Steve Ellis was carded for a dangerous tackle with 12 minutes remaining but the Blues dug in deep again and nearly found a way through when Dean Adamson spotted a gap only to have his ankles taken away from him as he looked for fifth gear.
A final score of the night came in the 74th minute with Streather benefitting from a fine Mordt pass to score close to the posts before Mordt made it 3-47 with his boot.
The scoreboard was in Saracens favour but the Blues showed a great deal of heart and determination throughout the game and will be looking to roll that onto next week when the Greene King IPA Championship season kicks off against Nottingham.
COME ON YOU BLUES
PIctures courtesy of Nigel Rudgard - http://frontrow.photium.com/