Jersey v Bedford Blues
Bedford Blues slid to a second successive defeat at the start of their Championship campaign for the first time during director of rugby Mike Rayer’s reign as an error-strewn display saw them lose 26-14 in Jersey.
The Blues failed to register on the scoreboard throughout a frustrating second half, leaving Rayer a very unhappy man.
“I was hugely disappointed - we made 20 or maybe 25 unforced errors and you can’t get away with that at this level,” he said. “Every time Jersey got an attacking platform in our half they scored points.
“Rugby should be a simple game - catch, pass and tackle - but we made it hard for ourselves today.”
Blues had points on the board straight from the kick-off when a Jersey offence gave Blues skipper James Pritchard an early shot at goal which he slotted effortlessly over. Bedford’s pack then won a penalty at the first scrum and Pritchard again did the honours.
Jersey’s new signing Niall O’Connor made his competitive debut for the island side after an injury las weekend and his pinpoint kick enabled winger Ed Dawson to claim the ball and cross for a try. Jersey took the lead with O’Connor’s conversion and extended their lead with a ninth-minute penalty.
The hosts then pulled further ahead when flanker Fred Silcock finished off a driving maul from a lineout and another O’Connor penalty left Blues in trouble.
Handling errors were preventing Bedford from making significant territorial gains, and scrum-half Luke Baldwin twice fired kicks directly into touch from outside his 22.
Eventually the three-quarters did manage to trouble Jersey, with Mark Atkinson bursting through the home side’s midfield. Baldwin then fed the ball to Brendan Burke who fired it wide to Pritchard. The skipper glanced up at the try-line 10 metres away and backed himself to finish the job, diving across the line inches from the corner flag.
After trimming Jersey’s lead to six points at the break, Blues came out fired up after half time, with hooker Scott Spurling putting in a thunderous tackle on opposite number Elvis Taione.
But soon afterwards another tackle was adjudged high and O’Connor claimed three more points. Jake Sharp tried to reply for Blues but his attempted drop-goal fell short.
O’Connor claimed his sixth successful kick from as many attempts after 57 minutes and, although the Ulsterman went on to miss his final attempt at goal, Jersey were relatively comfortable in the final quarter - to the frustration of another sizeable contingent of Blues fans.
Forays into Jersey territory were met with determined defence or thwarted by regular handling errors. Burke made a mazy run that almost brought a try, while former Jersey player Michael Le Bourgeois tried to unlock the defence of his former team-mates, but the Blues’ tally remained firmly stuck on 14 points.
Languishing at the bottom end of the embryonic Championship table Bedford will be looking to kick-start their 2013-14 campaign with a win at home to Leeds Carnegie next weekend.
Jersey: Sean McCarthy, Elvis Taione, David Young (Nick Selway 64), Nick Campbell (Dave Markham 74), Alex Rae (C), Ben Maidment (Joe Buckle 64), Fred Silcock, Tom Brown, Nicky Griffiths, Niall O’Connor, Ed Dawson, Dai Bishop, Mark McCrea, Mark Foster, Grant Pointer. Replacements not used: Luke Stratford, Tom Fidler, Jimmy Williams, Aaron Penberthy. T: Dawson, Silcock. C: O’Connor 2. P: O’Connor 4.
Blues: Nic Auterac (Nico Steenkamp 66), Scott Spurling (Charlie Clare 66), Phil Boulton (Ben Cooper 64), Mike Howard, Ben Gulliver, Tom Armes (Don Barrell 53), Darren Fox (Paul Tupai 64), Joe Vandermolen, Luke Baldwin (Darryl Veenendaal 61), Jake Sharp, Neville Edwards, Mark Atkinson, Brendan Burke, Ollie Dodge, James Pritchard (C, Michael Le Bourgeois 56). T: Pritchard. P: Pritchard 3.
Referee: Luke Pearce.
Touch Judges: Philip Davies and Michael Patz.