London Welsh v Bedford Blues
Bedford were hard done by as London Welsh registered five tries to run out 29-11 winners in their Green King IPA Championship clash at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford on Sunday afternoon. With only eight points in it late on, Bedford’s Tony Fenner looked to break clear for a certain try which might have changed the game, only for referee Darren Gamage to bring the Blues back for crossing.
The Exiles scored a penalty try and four further scores in total on the day, with Seb Jewell bagging a brace alongside tries from Tom May and Nick Scott, with Will Robinson converting two in windy conditions.
Blues captain James Pritchard was the only player to get on the scoresheet for Bedford as he registered a try and two penalties.
Bedford kicked the encounter off as the heavens opened at the Kassam Stadium.
Pritchard was given the nod after Welsh impeded at the scrum and looked for the first points of the game, but the wind was too much as he skewed his kick wide.
However, the Canadian claimed the first score of the afternoon moments later after Nic Auterac had made great ground down the left.
Auterac slipped in Pritchard to touch down in the corner, but the wind denied Bedford’s skipper as neither side had much luck from the tee.
Bedford were certainly the better side in the opening stages, while the Exiles showed their strength at scrum time.
The windy conditions meant the ball was spending a lot of time in the air, but the Blues were pressuring the home side well and making territory.
Pritchard had another chance on 20 minutes, but was again unsuccessful with his penalty attempt.
Mark Atkinson tried to break through for the Blues, but Welsh snatched the ball back.
Then, as play broke down, there was a small bust-up as referee Gamage gave Justin Burnell’s team the put-in at a scrum.
Bedford stole it back though and, as the half-hour mark approached, the visitors looked to throw more phases together.
Exiles were using the scrum to good effect though as they made their way into Bedford’s half, before a catch-and-drive move a lineout moved them to within 10m of the line.
Having switched sides, Scott broke down the left and, with Pritchard committing himself, Jewell was able to dive over to level the scores.
Fly-half Robinson couldn’t convert as the Exiles continued to look for more tries. Ollie Stedman went closest to finding a gap, but was taken down.
Fenner forced the hosts back into their own land with a good hit and, as the Blues then looked to work a maul, unfortunately they had no luck.
Darryl Veenedaal’s grubbered earned them further territory and from the lineout the ball found its way to Atkinson.
He off-loaded brilliantly to Michael Le Bourgeois as Bedford strung some phases together and earned a penalty, which this time Pritchard converted as the visitors retook the lead.
Welsh restarted play and pressed for a way back in as Scott flew through two Blue tackles, but Veenendaal was able to bring down the Exiles winger.
Bedford messed up a quick lineout by knocking on as they gifted Welsh a scrum five metres out and exerted more pressure to win a penalty.
Welsh went again and and got their desserts with the penalty try as Robinson converted to put them 12-8 up as the half time whistle came.
Bedford maintained their intent from the first half as they looked to break out of their own half through Corey Hircock at the start of the second period.
The winger cleared several tackles as he gave the Blues real momentum, only for the visitors to impede at a ruck as the Exiles kicked clear.
The hosts then rolled a scrum to earn a penalty, which they opted to kick to the corner rather than taking three relatively easy points.
Welsh threw phase-after-phase together as they looked to kill of the dangerous Blues.
And the hosts worked the ball left for May to dive over in stylish fashion, with Robinson’s conversion putting Welsh 19-8 ahead.
Patrick Tapley broke clear next as Bedford restarted, but scrappy play ensued, as Welsh soon nicked the ball back.
Blues scrambled well as May made a messed up a catch as Bedford proceeded to keep the Exiles at bay.
Le Bourgeois looked to break from his own 22, but Welsh held firm as Bedford forced them right back.
Exiles strayed offside and Prtichard couldn’t miss from right in front of the sticks as he reduced the gap to eight points.
Both sides proceeded to battle it out, with Nick Fenton-Wells tackling superbly around the next scrum.
Welsh earned another penalty as they pinned the Blues back, but struggled to find a way through.
Alan Awcock was introduced by Welsh as the Blues forced their hosts into touch as they threatened down the left.
Another decision allowed the home side to press again and their back produced some lovely stuff, only for a misplaced pass to find touch.
Blues looked to be in again when Fenner suddenly broke clear, only for Gamage to questionably deny a certain try for crossing with five minutes left on the clock.
Hurt by the call, Blues lost concentration and Welsh capitalised as Scott powered his way over to make it 24-11.
Things went from bad to worse as Le Bourgeois failed to gather a grubber cleanly under pressure from May and Jewell was able to keep the ball in with a dink as he dived over for his second try.
It was a flattering victory for the Exiles as, although the Blues came away with nothing, they certainly have a platform to build on for next week’s visit of Rotherham Titans.
Exiles: Tom Bristow (Alec Hepburn 56), Nathan Morris (Kevin Davis 60), James Tideswell (Paddy Ryan 65), Ben West, Pete Browne (Ian Nimmo 54), Daniel Browne, Carl Kirwan (John Quill 63), Ollie Stedman, Rob Lewis (Chris Cook 54), Will Robinson (Alan Awcock 72), Nick Scott, Sonny Parker, Tom May (C), Seb Stegmann, Seb Jewell. T: Jewell 2, Penalty Try, May, Scott. C: Robinson 2.
Blues: Nick Auterac (Ben Cooper 46), Charlie Clare (TJ Harris 79), Tomas Gilardon-Paz (Nico Steenkamp 46), Paul Tupai, Harry Wells (Mike Howard 56), Gregor Gillanders, Darren Fox (Don Barrell 56), Nick Fenton-Wells, Darryl Veenendaal (Harry Peck 71), Tony Fenner, Corey Hircock, Mark Atkinson (Brendan Burke 51), Mike Le Bourgeois, Patrick Tapley, James Pritchard (C). T: Pritchard. P: Pritchard 2.
Referee: Darren Gamage.
Assistant Referees: Thomas Davis and Michael Patz.