Bedford Blues gave a superb account of themselves against former Premiership side London Irish during an enthralling encounter at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.

While the Blues ultimately went down 23-30, there were plenty of positives to take from this performance that could easily have swung the Blues way in the latter stages. 

Speaking after the encounter, Pat Tapley, who scored two tries, said: “While it is really pleasing for me to come back into the team and score two tries, ultimately we are disappointed with the score line as it goes down as a defeat when it felt like we deserved more.

"The opening 40 minutes was very good from our point of view, but penalties and ill-discipline ultimately cost us today.

“We can take plenty of positives from the game though. We certainly raised our performance levels and I think that we matched a Premiership team very well throughout the 80 minutes. We need to tighten up in a few areas and we need to make sure we do that before we head up for the always challenging encounter against Doncaster next weekend.” 

Bedford certainly didn’t need much motivation going into the encounter and their attack intent was clear early on as they sent a penalty to touch. Irish defended well though before turning the screw at a scrum which led to Tommy Bell converting the resulting penalty.
Bedford were straight on the attack and a lineout drive came close to the Irish try line before being stopped. Several phases of pick and go followed with Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Chris Judge, Ed Taylor Will Carrick-Smith and George Edgson all having a crack at the lint before the ref awarded  a penalty which Myles Dorrian dispatched to level the scores.
The Goldington Road crowd was in fine voice and they were soon cheering louder when Pat Tapley intercepted the ball on the edge of the Blues 22 and hurtled 80 metres up field to score an unconverted try in the tenth minute.
Bedford were certainly in the ascendancy and a penalty 45 metres out was struck superbly by Elliot Clements-Hill but his compass was slightly off and the ball passed the wrong side of the posts.
Nevertheless, the fullback returned the 22 drop out superbly and Dean Adamson gave chase, caught his man and won his team a penalty which Dorrian chipped over the sticks to make it 11-3.
The Blues were to pick up more penalties but a swirling wind denied Dorrian as his effort went right of the posts.
Bedford then had to play the rest of the half with 14 as Josh Buggea was carded for tripping the Exiles scrum half as he attempted a quick penalty. London Irish made the numerical advantage count and a penalty in the 36th minute led to a lineout which ultimately led to World Cup winning prop Ben Franks dotting down to close the gap.
Clements-Hill had another opportunity from a long way out in the 39th minute but his effort was caught by the wind and again drifted wide. 

As hard as the Blues tried, Irish made the extra man count and as the game went into stoppage time, former Blue Ben Ransom fed a delightful grubber kick through the defence which was leapt on by Johnny Williams to score and Bell converted to make it 11-15 at the interval.

The second half saw the Exiles exerting a fair amount of pressure early on and they got their rewards five minutes in when a strong forwards move led to the ball coming along the back line where Topsy Ojo was on hand to dot down and Bell converted to make it 11-22.

But again Bedford fought back and their cause was assisted by a yellow card for London Irish captain David Paige who was pinged deep in the Exiles 22. Bedford went to touch and the lineout drive did its job with Edgson crossing the whitewash for an unconverted try.

Two minutes later and Bedford were ahead as they scored a wonderfully worked try. Replacement scrum half Jordan Burns sparked into life with a darting break which carried him past several Exiles and deep into their half. With the defence scrambling, Burns sent a delightful pass out to Tapley who had the gas in the tank to score and Jake Sharp converted to make it 23-22.

London Irish were starting to win penalties and when Jason Hill was pinged for not releasing a tackle, Bell made no mistake as he slotted the 60th minute penalty but he was not as clinical 10 minutes later when Bedford conceded a sloppy penalty on the edge of their own 22.

The visitors set up camp in Bedford’s 22 and a penalty saw Irish opt for a scrum but in their haste, they went in too quick and a free kick let the Blues off the hook.

With Bedford seeking a score to get their noses back in front, Irish struck as Max Northcote-Green competed well at the ruck, kicked the ball through and had the legs to make the line with Bell adding the extras.

As the Goldington Road clock struck 80 minutes, Bell fired the ball to touch in celebration before the ref explained that there were still four minutes left on his watch. Bedford won a penalty and sent the ball deep into Irish’s 22 looking for another driving move. Sadly, the ball came loose and the visitors were able to clear before seeing out the final moments to seal the win.

See more of Nigel Rudgard's photograph's HERE.

Next Home Match

Saturday 27th April
1st XV Championship
Goldington Road