Ealing Trailfinders v Bedford Blues
Bedford battled hard at Vallis Way on Saturday afternoon as they claimed a 39-23 victory over Ealing Trailfinders. The Blues touched down five tries and to claim a bonus-point win and deny the Green & Whites anything out of the game in the process.
This Greene King IPA Championship clash could have gone either way though with 10 minutes left to play and only two points separating the pair, but Bedford came up trumps on a delightful afternoon in West London. Two late tries from Bedford’s Mark Atkinson, on top of well-crafted scores from Nick Fenton-Wells, Gregor Gillanders and Patrick Tapley, were enough to see off the hosts. Ealing put in a creditable display as winger Phil Chesters scored two tries on the day and TJ Anderson also touched down, with Ben Ward kicking a conversion and two penalties.
Blues kicked things off in the afternoon sunshine as the home side forged the first attack.
Max Crumpton broke early and found acres of space, but Chris Kinloch couldn’t catch his off-load as pressure came from Ben Ransom.
Michael Le Bourgeois proceeded to break well and showed great hands to get off a pass, but Ealing intercepted as Bedford tested their defence.
Then Jake Sharp and Ransom combined to push Ealing right back to their 22.
Darryl Veenendaal kept up the attack but, as Blues props Darren Fearn and Phil Boulton linked right underneath the posts, a knock-on allowed Trailfinders to clear.
James Pritchard was on the receiving end of a nasty tackle from Steve Pape as the Ealing lock was sin-bin and Bedford took the initiative as Sharp slipped in Fenton-Wells for the first score 10 minutes in.
Sharp was kicking well in the windy conditions and Fenton-Wells made some good ground as Blues looked for a second try.
And the visitors thought they had it when Veenendaal came off the back of a maul and found Pritchard on the wing.
The Canadian outpaced his defender his marker and dinked over his man to dive over for the score.
However, after consulting with his assistant, referee John Meredith ruled out the score.
The contingent of Bedford fans didn’t have to wait long to cheer once more, however, as Gillanders powered through for the Blues’ second try and Pritchard added the extras just before the half-hour mark.
Ealing instantly got one back though, Chesters finding space in the corner to register and narrow the score to 12-5.
The hosts then kicked for the corner and, after some good driving play by Conor Carey, TJ Anderson barrelled his way over and Ben Ward converted to level the scores at 12-12.
Next, Harry Wells, who was making his first start for the Blues, picked up a yellow for having hands in at a ruck and Ealing seized upon their man advantage.
Chesters sent down a grubber on the left and, although he didn’t get the bounce, he was able to lean back and gather to get over for the Green & Whites’ third try.
Opposing forwards Boulton and Crumpton then clashed as the Blues were awarded a penalty which Pritchard duly converted to make it 17-15.
Bedford searched for a way back into the lead and found it by dominating the scrum as Pritchard slotted home another penalty from just outside the 22 as Blues led 18-17 at oranges.
As play resumed, Ealing full-back Andrew Henderson was at the helm of another home attack.
He knocked on, but Blues were flagged for a high tackle and Ward restored their lead as he made it 20-18 from the tee.
Blues looked to fresh legs as Nic Auterac replaced Fearn and it paid dividends as success at scrum time helped the Blues’ backs to get into the game and really stretch their hosts.
The hosts refused to be pushed over, but good energy from the Bedford defence was forcing the Trailfinders to make mistakes as replacement Timothy Brockett’s forward pass gave Bedford the put-in at a scrum.
Ealing proceeded to impede and Veenendaal quickly took the penalty as the Blues worked the ball left and made for the corner.
Trailfinders were able to clear briefly from the resulting lineout, but Veenendaal and Atkinson threw some good passes together to push Ealing right back, only for Chesters to take a crucial interception.
Blues continued to keep the hosts pinned back as constant pressure forced them to kick clear.
Tapley made ground as Bedford strung more good phases together, with the winger managing to shrug off a tackle to go through under the sticks, with Pritchard’s conversion making it 25-20 just after the hour mark.
Ealing looked for a way back into the contest as they made the most of a scrum with 15 minutes left to play as Ward was given another chance from the tee to reduce the gap to two points, which he duly took as the home crowd roared.
Ransom missed a tackle that nearly allowed Ealing in, but Tapley was able to get across to cover.
Experience shone as Paul Tupai came on for the resulting fiver-metre scrum and he managed to gather from it and help the Blues forward.
Ealing tried the maul their way forwards, with the likes of Gavin Curry testing the Blues forwards, before trying to kick through for Chesters, but once more put the ball into touch.
The game was headed for a tense finale With five minutes left on the clock as the Blues won a put-in at the scrum in Trailfinders’ half.
Referee John Meredith deemed Ealing had brought the scrum down as Bedford opted to put the much-needed penalty into the corner in a bid to run down the clock.
A powerful maul made yards before Auterac made further territory and the ball eventually found its to Atkinson who barrelled his way over the line and Pritchard converted to seal the deal.
However, Blues weren’t quite finished yet as Atkinson went over in the dying stages to score Bedford’s fifth try with Sharp this time successfully converting from the tee.
Bedford’s next game is also on the road, away to high-flyers London Welsh.
Trailfinders: Ryan Storer (Steve Neville, 55), Max Crumpton, Conor Carey (Tim Brockett, 48), Steve Pape, Gavin Curry, Adam Preocanin, Ed Siggery (Alex Bradley, 65), TJ Anderson (C), Morgan Thompson (Tom Parker, 77), Ben Ward, Phil Chesters, Tom Wheatcroft, Ronnie McLean (Billy Robinson, 25), Chris Kinloch, Andrew Henderson. Not Used Replacements: Richard Townsend, Dan Collier. T: Philip Chesters 2, TJ Anderson. P: Benjamin Ward 2. C: Benjamin Ward.
Blues: Darren Fearn (Nic Auterac 45), Charlie Clare, Phil Boulton (Ben Cooper 79), Mike Howard, Harry Wells (Paul Tupai 70), Gregor Gillanders (Don Barrell 70), Darren Fox, Nick Fenton-Wells, Darryl Veenendaal, Jake Sharp, James Pritchard (C), Ollie Dodge (Mark Atkinson 35), Mike Le Bourgeois, Patrick Tapley, Ben Ransom. Replacements not used: TJ Harris, Harry Peck. T: Fenton-Wells, Gillanders, Tapley, Atkinson. P: Pritchard 2. C: Pritchard 3, Sharp.
Referee: John Meredith
Assistant Referees: Richard Kelly and Simon McConnell.
See more matchday pictures on Nigel Rudgard's website http://frontrow.photium.com/