MATCH REPORT V BRITISH ARMY RUGBY
I think that it would be fair to say that Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Mobbs would have been truly thrilled with the rugby on display at Goldington Road on Tuesday night as Bedford Blues defeated the Army 55-26 in the memorial game which commemorated the 100th anniversary of his death.
There were 13 tries scored during an enthralling 80 minutes of rugby with nine going the way of the Blues - including a hat-trick for debutant Blues Development winger Ryan Hutler - and four for the Army who battled until the final minute.
There was certainly a sense of occasion before kick off as both teams ran out together and lined up for the National Anthem which was played stunningly by the The Band of The Parachute Regiment (who also belted out an amazing Michael Jackson medley at half-time).
That sense of occasion carried onto the pitch as both teams set about impressing the 1410 strong crowd with some fine displays of running rugby and some hard-hitting defensive plays.
Bedford withstood an initial Army attack before taking over possession and dominating territory. It was only a slippy ball that prevented Ben Adams from crossing in the fifth minute after great work from Pat Tapley. Sam Olver and Rory Hutchinson - both Northampton Saints pulling on the Blues jersey - linked up really well to release Elliot Clements-Hill only for him to experience the same result moments later.
The Blues dominance finally paid off in the 21st minute when an overthrown Bedford lineout resulted in the opening try. Chris Judge was the first to react as he charged forward after catching the ball and he set the ruck which saw a couple more phases follow with Byron Hodge and Mike Howard heading forwards. Tom Kessell (Northampton) orchestrated the backs with Olver and Ollie Dodge crashing through before Kessell fizzed the ball to Hutler to score the unconverted try.
Two minutes later and Bedford stunned the Army with a second score. Hutchinson was again involved in the attack and he showed some great juggling skills to keep possession. As the centre took the tackle, he offloaded to Paul Tupai who had Dodge outside him and with only one defender to beat, the ball found its way to Tapley who coasted over the line with Olver striking a good conversion to make it 12-0.
The Army went on the attack and Bedford were pinged for not releasing a tackle. Skipper Rob Lennox took the quick tap and go from close range and the ball was quickly recycled to winger Junior Bulumakau, but he was stopped in his tracks and knocked on.
Bedford continued to play fast-flowing rugby with Hodge, Ed Taylor and Tupai in the thick of the action while Ralph Adams-Hale and Tom Lindsay (both Saracens) were keen to hit any ruck as hard as they could.
Sadly, former Blue Ricky Reeves’ night ended a little earlier than he would have hoped as he went off in the 37th minute. The change may have disrupted the Army game plan as Bedford went over for their third soon after. Another good passage of play resulted in Kessell and Olver linking up to play in Hutler for his second of the night which Olver duly converted.
But the Army regathered and ended the half on a high as they scored their opening try in stoppage time. Former Fijian fly half Jack Prasad went on a crab-like run as he scuttled from one side of the field to the other before sending the ball along the line to Chris Leathem who scored with centre James Dixon converting to make it 19-7 at the break.
Bedford introduced Dan Lewis for the second half in place of Olver and the youngster was soon in the thick of the action as Bedford continued pressing and made full use of the slope. The forwards pressed hard before Kessell and Lewis combined to send the ball down the line to Hutler who dived over for his hat-trick and Lewis slotted the extras.
Two minutes later and Lewis got his name on the scoreboard as he showed a clean pair of heels to hurtle over the line (the less said about the conversion the better, but we’ll put it down to being out of breath…).
Bedford then went on to make it 38-7 when Tapley showed great gas to run in his second of the night before a fine seventh try followed as Kessell slipped a glorious inside pass to Adams, who stepped cheekily past the final defender to score. Lewis converted both.
The Army regrouped and went on the attack scoring a truly Baa Baas inspired second try. It was truly end-to-end in the build up before the calm heads and cool hands of props Ken Dowding and Turkish Titchard-Jones played in Lennox for the try with Dixon adding the extras.
Bedford retaliated with a double from Clements-Hill with the first coming from some swift handling while the second saw Tapley tease the final defender before playing in the fullback to make it 55-14.
But again, the Army showed their resilience as they scored two late tries which thrilled the crowd. Excellent inter-play amongst the backs saw Leathem cross for his second before replacement Rav Fatiaki finished off a frenetic final attack of the night and Dixon converted.
Blues: Elliot Clements-Hill, Pat Tapley, Rory Hutchinson (Saints), Ollie Dodge, Ryan Hutlet (Dev), Sam Olver (Saints), Tom Kessell (Saints); Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens), Tom Lindsay (Saracens), Christian Judge, Mike Howard, Byron Hodge, Ed Taylor (c), Ben Adams, Paul Tupai.
Reps: Charlie Robinson, James Hallam, Camillo Parilli-Ocampo, Jordan Onojaife, Jacob Turner (Dev), Alex Gliksten (Saracens), Dan Lewis (Dev), Michael Le Bourgeois.
British Army; Owain Davies, Junior Bulumakau, Conner O'Reilly, James Dixon, Chris Leathem, Jack Prasad, Si Vunivesilevu; Ricky Reeves, Pete Austin, Ken Dowding, Lewis Bean, Tom Burnham, Rob Lennox (c), Matt Dawson, Ifereimi Boladau.
Reps: Matthew Dwyer, Turkish Titchard-Jones, Chunk Davies, Ross Parkins, Chris Mundy, Tom Chennell, Rav Fatiaki, Craig Edwards, Maku Koroiyadi.
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