It was a tough afternoon at Goldington Road on Sunday as Bristol ran in six tries to take a 16-45 win and a firm hold of the Greene King IPA Championship semi-final.

Bedford did cross the whitewash once with Charlie Clare hurtling over while out on the wing, but Bristol were clinical with their driving maul and made it count in the first half before taking their opportunities in the second.

With a 29 point difference at half time – things don’t look fantastic, but if there’s one thing that Mike Rayer’s men like, it’s a challenge.

With Sky Sports in tow, everything was set up for a cracking encounter and the early exchanges had the teams battling it out in the air before the visitors started to peg the Blues back in their 22. An overthrown lineout saw Bristol attack and go through the phases, but the Bedford defence held firm and picked up a penalty which was thumped to touch.

Bristol continued to pin the Blues back and they took the lead in the seventh minute when a penalty went to touch five metres out with the resulting lineout being driven over with Olly Robinson dotting down and Callum Sheedy converting.

The setback kicked Bedford into gear with the forward keen to carry whenever possible. Phil Boulton, Harry Wells and Josh Buggea all made good ground before a space opened up down the left wing but a final pass just inched forward.

The resulting scrum saw the Blues shove Bristol’s forward off the ball but as it was recycled an unfortunate knock on let Andy Robinson’s men off the hook. 

It was certainly a hard-hitting first 40 with both side putting in some huge challenges which were appreciated by both sets of fans who were vocal from start to finish.

Bedford levelled the scores in the 20th minute following an excellent break from Michael Le Bourgeois who had options either side of him. The captain chose to come inside and offloaded to the supporting Henry Taylor before the Bedford cavalry arrived to secure the ball which was spun out wide to Clare – who was covering the right wing – and he went over with Jake Sharp hitting the conversion.

The Blues came close a few minutes later when the impressive Buggea made an excellent break before sending a grubber of his own into the Bristol 22. Dean Adamson gave chase but his kick on drifted to touch and Bristol breathed a sigh of relief.

Sadly, Tom Griffiths took a nasty knock in the build up and the youngster had to be helped off the field and was replaced by Henry Staff who slotted straight in at 12. Bedford were enjoying a fair amount of possession with their forwards being destructive at the scrum and it wasn’t long until a penalty came the Blues way and Sharp duly converted to make it 10-7.

It didn’t take Bristol too long to level things once again when a penalty was sent deep into the Blues 22. Bedford illegally stopped the maul and David Lemi called for the shot at the posts which Sheedy dispatched.
Two tries in the dying moments of the half gave Bristol a huge advantage. Another penalty was sent to touch and Bristol’s pack rolled forward with James Phillips crossing the line with the TMO giving the thumbs up.

Two minutes later and Bedford were down to 14 when Clare was carded for bringing the maul down. Bristol rumbled forward again before Ross McMillan broke away to score – but only after the TMO confirmed again. Sheedy couldn’t add either conversion but the hosts were ahead 10-20 at the break.

Bristol continued to make the extra man count and they went further ahead five minutes after the break. Bedford had possession and attacked down the right wing, but Lemi managed to dislodge the ball at the ruck and the visitors sprung into life, headed up the pitch and sent the ball to Jack Wallace who ran by the posts with Sheedy adding the extras.

Bedford weren’t going down without a fight with the likes of Steffan Jones and George Perkins looking to run the ball whenever possible while Paul Tupai, Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, Mark Flanagan and Mike Howard were trying to break the gain line at every opportunity. 

Bristol were caught offside in the 48th minute and Sharp chipped the ball through the posts to reduce the deficit. Adamson then set the ground alight with a blistering kick and chase, but Bristol were able to stop him in the nick of time but they did concede a penalty which Sharp converted in the 68th minute to make the score 16-27.

That was as good as it got though for the Blues as Bristol started to flex their muscles. Phillips went over for his second form the back of a scrum and Sheedy added two penalties to make it 16-38. A final try arrived at the death when Jack Tovey managed to twist his way over from close range and Sheedy pushed the conversion over the uprights to wrap up the win.

See more of Nigel Rudgard's pictures HERE.

Next Home Match

Saturday 27th April
1st XV Championship
Goldington Road