Bedford Blues hopes of reaching the knock out stages of the British & Irish Cup were boosted on Saturday evening when they picked up a 34-17 bonus point win over Bristol.

Following last Friday’s 52-8 reversal, you could have been forgiven for expecting the worst when Andy Robinson’s men arrived at Goldington Road but the Blues clearly learnt from the previous encounter, cut out the mistakes, reduced the penalty count and ran in five superb tries to seal a thoroughly deserved victory.

But just as important as the tries was the defensive effort from Bedford who didn’t want to give Bristol an inch. The scrum was solid – only conceding one penalty – while the maul defence was far more effective than in the past fortnight. And as for the tackling? Well, every player in the 22 put their bodies on the line with skipper Nick Fenton-Wells leading by example with a stunning display which saw him voted man-of-the-match.

Bedford enjoyed the early possession as they played up the slope in the opening half but an unfortunate knock on from Myles Dorrian gave possession to the visitors who made their way towards the try line only for a final pass to go forwards. Bedford then won a penalty at the scrum and it was clear that it was going to take something special for Bristol to get anything from the pack this week.

Bedford were almost undone a few minutes later though when Luke Arscott spotted Charlie Amesbury open on the left wing and sent a Crossfield kick towards the winger. The ball bounced awkwardly though and as he tried to gather it, he knocked on and the Blues were off the hook.

Bristol were pinged shortly afterwards and Henry Taylor – who orchestrated the game superbly from scrum half – took the opportunity to step on the gas and hurtle his way up field before being hauled down by his opposite number and knocking on.

The resulting scrum was solid from Bristol and they worked a good overlap down the left wing but for a second time Amesbury knocked on with acres of space ahead of him and Bedford used up their ‘get out of jail card’.

The opening try of the game came in the 11th minute and it was a cracker. The Blues scrum was solid and the ball was spun out to the backs who played the ball left and then right again before Biyi Alo charged like a rhino through the defence to set up an attacking platform. Alex Lundberg, Mark Flanagan and Mike Howard secured the ball before Taylor spread the ball to Dorrian. Fenton-Wells came into the attack and cleverly passed to Piers O’Conor who crossed the line for an unconverted try.

Bristol responded with a strong attack which saw Amesbury almost making up for his earlier mistakes, but Pat Tapley covered brilliantly to drag the winger to touch. Bristol pinched the lineout ball though and after a couple of phases they sent it along the backs to Tommaso Benvenuti who dotted down with Matthew Morgan converting.

Trailing 5-7, the Blues took the game to Bristol and were soon setting up another attack in the visitors 22. An accidental offside gave Bedford a scrum with Taylor again pulling the strings and sending his troops forward. A ruck eight metres from the line was all the invitation Paul Tupai need as he picked up and charged forward. A last ditch tackle seemed to stop the Samoan bulldozer but he stretched as far as he could to score with Dorrian adding the extras to make it 12-7.

The Blues fans were sent into wonderland three minutes later as the home side racked up their third try of the afternoon. Fenton-Wells did an excellent job to win a penalty and Bedford were on the attack once again. Michael Le Bourgeois and Ollie Dodge were linking up superbly and Tapley made a darting run to get into Bristol’s 22. With the defence scrambling back, Dorrian sent a long pass out wide which Adamson collected to score but Dorrian couldn’t add the extras.

The half continued to be an enthralling affair with Tapley coming close to a try of his own as he looked to chip and chase, but a Bristol hand denied his attempt and the ball went to touch. Bedford drove a maul on before winning a penalty which went to touch close to Bristol’s line. The visitors defended well and Morgan was able to punt up the pitch when the ball was spilled, but O’Conor ran back brilliantly before Bristol failed to release the tackle and the ref blew his whistle. Dorrian lined up the attempt and thumped it well but it cannoned off the cross bar and Bristol ran it clear.  It continued to be end to end stuff but no one could finish a move and the half ended 17-7.

Bristol started the second half in fine form with a try not too dissimilar from the four they scored last week. An early penalty went to touch before the pack rumbled forward. Bedford defended well and stopped the initial attack, but Chris Brooker spotted a gap and squirmed over for an unconverted try to make it 17-12.

Bedford didn’t capitulate though and soon took proceedings back into Bristol’s 22. A strong attack looked to be a try in the making but Tapley took his eye off the ball for a second and it squirmed out of his hands. Bedford put real pressure on the five metre scrum and Bristol had to try and run but Mitch Eadie was carried into touch and Bedford had an attacking lineout. The put in was overthrown but the ball bounced in Bedford’s direction and Dorrian showed great agility to collect the ball, step away from the oncoming defence and dart under the posts before converting his own effort to secure at least a try bonus point.

Fenton-Wells was bringing the best out of his teammates and lead yet another charge soon afterwards. The Blues captain produced a give and go that Dorrian would have approved off before sending a Jake Sharp-esq grubber towards the try line for O’Conor to chase but Amesbury just got his fingers to it first to secure a 22 drop out.

It mattered not though as Bedford extended their lead in the 54th minute when Taylor tried to find a way through before Bristol failed to release the tackle and Dorrian converted the penalty to make it 27-12.

Replacement hooker Sam James was the next man to come close to a try when he was given far too much space and he showed a great turn of pace before being brought down close to the line. 

Bedford continued to make the most of their possession and when Morgan failed to find touch with a penalty, the Blues were heading back with a fifth try on the horizon. O’Conor started the move, but the majority of the team played some part in sending the ball out wide to Adamson who was able to cross for his second try which Sharp converted.

Bristol made a good period of possession count and they crashed over for a third try of the afternoon through Nick Kosher but the conversion was pulled wide.

Both teams kept going hammer and tong for the final ten minutes which included another 60 metre penalty attempt from Steffan Jones – just short this time – but the game was rightfully Bedford’s and Goldington Road broke into rapturous applause when the final whistle was blown.

Scarlets Select’s victory over Ulster means that the Blues return to the top of Pool 2 and will be hopeful of progressing into the knock out stages.

Merry Christmas Blues fans!!!

See more of Nigel Rudgard's match pictures by clicking HERE.

Click HERE to see all the tries on Blues TV

And as an added extra, HERE is the future voice of Goldington Road, William Roberts, doing his dad proud by interviewing a host of Blues stars after the game.

Next Home Match

Wednesday 26th December
1st XV
Goldington Road