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Leeds Carnegie v Bedford Blues
Bedford Blues warmed up the freezing conditions with a brilliant display to beat Leeds Carnegie 45-25 at Cross Green on Sunday afternoon as their game ended 10 minutes early because of an unsafe pitch.
In a terrific bonus point victory for the Blues, the game was marred by what looked to be a serious leg injury to Sacha Harding.
The Blues skipper was stretchered off and, as the temperature dropped, referee Ian Tempest decided to end the game early in order to avoid any further injuries on the frozen pitch.
It was the home side that took a first minute lead as Joe Ford converted a penalty.
However, Bedford responded in excellent fashion and scored five first half tries thanks to Paul Tupai, Mark Atkinson, Josh Bassett and two from Jake Sharp.
The visitors continued their dominance after the break and scored two more tries as Bedford went on to record their biggest win against Leeds.
The Blues made three changes to the side that beat Cornish Pirates. Fit again James Stephenson returned on the wing, while Ian Vass came in for the injured Henry Vass at centre and there was also a start for Alex Rae at blindside-flanker.
It took the home side just 40 seconds to take the lead as they won a penalty 40 metres out that Ford converted.
Carnegie had started the match in a lively fashion and David Doherty broke immediately from the restart to set up another attack.
The Blues recovered, but centre Fred Burdon looked to have squeezed through a gap in the Bedford defence, only to be pulled back for crossing.
There was hardly time to draw breath as scum-half Luke Baldwin went in search of a response for the Blues.
His quickly-taken tap penalty left the Carnegie defence out of position, before some slick Blues passing set up Tupai who touched down under the posts.
Another Baldwin tap penalty caused havoc again moments later as he fed Alex Rae who raced up the wing.
The flanker off-loaded to Bassett and, with the line at the winger’s mercy, he was denied by Stevie McColl who produced a brilliant covering tackle.
Nevertheless, Bedford kept the pressure up and camped themselves inside Leeds’ 22 metre line.
Carnegie couldn’t clear their lines and Bedford punished them as Atkinson nipped through a gap in the Leeds defence to score and Sharp converted as Bedford led 14-3.
But their lead was reduced minutes later as Burdon again showed his lightning pace to dart through the Blues defence and play in Doherty who dived over the whitewash.
Ford converted from a tight angle and the scoreline now read 14-10 to the Blues.
However, Bedford were undeterred and Atkinson again worked his way through the Leeds defence to allow Sharp to score.
It was end-to-end stuff and Leeds responded as they won a penalty just after the restart that Ford slotted confidently through the posts.
But the home side couldn’t get to grips with their opponents and winger Bassett scored the Blues’ fourth try.
Bedford won a scrum 15 metres out and Tupai emerged from the back of it to burst for the line.
The Leeds defence got back into position but the was ball was recycled to Bassett who ran through to score.
The Blues were well in control and they missed a glorious opportunity for their fifth try just before half time.
Sharp collected his own chip and chase and played in Baldwin who raced clear, but somehow the scrum-half knocked the ball forward as he was tackled on the line.
However it didn’t prove too costly as the Blues got their fifth try moments later.
Bedford once again exploited the cracks in the Leeds defence and Sharp offloaded smartly at the last moment to play in Tupai for his second try.
The fly-half then converted and the Blues went into the break with a 33-13 lead.
Leeds needed to score early at the start of the second half if they were to salvage anything from the game, and they did just that as Phil Nilsen bundled the ball home after a lineout five metres from the Blues’ line.
Ford cannoned his conversion of the crossbar and the score now stood at 33-18 in the Blues’ favour.
But any hope of a comeback was dashed as Phil Boulton was the next man to score against the Yorkshire side
The Blues built some good pressure with a number of phases and Rae broke through, enabling prop Boulton to score.
However, the game then came to an abrupt halt as Blues skipper Harding took a heavy knock.
He was down for about 10 minutes before eventually being stretchered off with Darren Fox coming on in his place.
The break in play didn’t seem to have too much effect on the Blues as they went in search of another try and they didn’t have to wait long for their seventh.
Once again the Blues built the move with several phases of passing before the forwards got involved with a powerful maul towards the line.
The ball was worked to Atkinson and he dived over for his second.
Leeds again responded quickly as replacement Ben Hooper pulled another one back, but the game was already beyond doubt.
And with over 10 minutes of the game left to play, referee Tempest deemed the playing surface had become too unsafe to continue.
The game came to an abrupt halt, but with over an hour played the result stood, although the excellent result will be overshadowed by the injury to their captain.
Leeds Carnegie: Sam Lockwood (Ben Harris 69), Phil Nilsen (Joe Graham 50), Damien Tussac (Ben Hooper 72), Calum Green, Matt Smith (Dominic Barrow 60), Richard Beck (Rob Baldwin 40), Jacob Rowan (C), Ryan Burrows, James Doherty (Craig Hampson 60), Joe Ford, David Doherty, Fred Burdon, Josh Griffin (Curtis Wilson 60), Oli Goss, Stevie McColl. T: David Doherty, Phil Nilsen, Ben Hooper. C: Joe Ford. P: Joe Ford 2.
Blues: Darren Fearn (Dan Seal 47), Neil Cochrane (Scott Spurling 68), Phil Boulton (Ben Cooper 68), Mike Howard, Ben Gulliver, Alex Rae, Sacha Harding (C) (Darren Fox 60), Paul Tupai (Don Barrell 48), Luke Baldwin (Darryl Veenendaal 68), Jake Sharp, Josh Bassett, Ian Vass, Brendan Burke (James Pritchard 38), James Stephenson, Mark Atkinson. T: Tupai 2, Atkinson 2, Sharp, Bassett, Boulton. C: Sharp 5.
Referee: Ian Tempest.
Touch Judges: Andrew Taylorson and Michael Patz.