Bedford's chances of reaching the quarter finals of the British & Irish Cup came to an end on Saturday afternoon as they went down 12-29 to Yorkshire Carnegie.

Tries from Ollie Dodge and Tom Whiteley did give Bedford hope in the second half, but the visitors had been clinical in finishing their chances and were tough to break down.

"We weren't there for the 80 minutes," said Blues number 8 Jason Hill after the final whistle. "We came out of the blocks pretty hard in the opening ten minutes and made a good impact but the foot came off the gas a little and they were able to come into the game. We didn't defend the maul as well as we have done in the last few games and it cost us.

"After the break we got sucked in again but then we came more and more in to it. Sadly it was too little too late. If we played like we did at the end of the game at the beginning, then it could have been a different story.

"We can be pleased with the structure and shape that we had today but we just need to cut out the errors. We’re out of the British & Irish Cup but we can go to Wales next weekend and look to set a marker for the rest of the season.”

A bitterly cold afternoon at Goldington Road saw both teams looking to play fast paced rugby (I suspect in the hope of staying warm) for much of the opening 40 minutes.

The Blues, playing down the slope, started in determined fashion with Jake Sharp putting the opposition under pressure with a smart grubber kick before the scrum won a penalty and Bedford sent the ball to touch in the visitors 22. Byron Hodge collected the ball and had Ben Adams in support but as he looked to offload, a Yorkshire hand appeared to intercept and send the ball to safety.

A ninth minute penalty gave Bedford the chance to send the ball to touch once again with Will Carrick-Smith collecting the throw in but Carnegie handled things well and prevented any momentum from building before wrapping up the tackle and winning a penalty which was cleared.

The Blues continued to play running rugby as much as possible with the back three of Elliot Clements-Hill, Pat Tapley and Piers O’Conor all making good yards, but the visiting defence was solid and were not giving away too much territory.

Despite the best efforts of Ollie Dodge and Tom Griffiths to punch their way through the midfield, Yorkshire soaked up the pressure and turned it into a meaningful attack in the 22nd minute when a driving maul close to the Blues try line was dotted down by prop Charlie Beech with Warren Seals converting.

Bedford came firing back with O’Conor showing a great turn of pace to hurtle along the left wing looking to release Clements-Hill but the ball went just behind the winger and out to touch. Griffiths then made a superb charge up the centre of the field with O’Conor and Dodge in support, but the Carnegie defence scrambled well snubbed out the attack.

Things got a little feisty on the field in the 30th minute when a bout of handbags broke out. The assistant referee spotted something in the middle and Blues hooker Dan George was sent to the bin for putting his shoulder into the back of an opponent.

Carnegie sent the ball to touch and then drove over from close range with O’Donnell claiming the try and Seal adding the extras.

Bedford were being pinned back but following hard work from the likes of Ben Adams, Jason Hill and Justin Blanchet, the ball was turned over and Griffiths spotted a gap but he was taken out high given the Blues the chance to clear their lines.

Bedford continued to push with Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, Billy Walker and returning Dan George all fighting tooth and nail at the ruck before Clements-Hill was given room to break once again, but his chip and chase fell into Yorkshire hands before being carried to touch.

The Blues had one last chance in the half when Carnegie were pinged at the ruck and Sharp sent the ball to touch but the visitors pinched the lineout ball before the half ended with a knock on.

The Blues started brightly after the break with Hill making a couple of huge carries but then the refs are went out and Carnegie sent the ball to touch. The lineout maul followed and Ollie Stedman crossed the line with Seals making it 0-21.

Carnegie were in the ascendancy and in the 50th minute they wrapped up the bonus point as some great handling saw Seals capture the ball and dart across the line. This time though, the straight forward conversion drifted wide but the visitors were 0-26 ahead.

Credit to Bedford, at no point did heads drop and they were soon on the attack once more. With a host of changes, including the introductions of Jack Culverhouse, Chris Judge, Josh Buggea, Ed Taylor and Tom Whiteley, the Blues secured a scrum in the visitors 22 before Whiteley pulled the strings and following a couple of phases, Dodge powered his way over with Sharp converting.

The Blues were intent on running and a chip through from Sharp was taken in by George who powered his way on to set up another attack. Yorkshire continued to stifle the Blues though and picked up a scrum when the ball was knocked on.

Bedford’s persistence did pay off though and they scored their second try in the 64th minute. Patient play saw the Blues making gains in the Carnegie 22 before the ref awarded a penalty as a maul was brought down illegally. Whiteley spotted the slightest of gaps, went quick, slipped slightly but regained his composure to finish smartly.

It was then the visitors turn to attack as they sent the ball to the left wing following a good scrum, but the final pass saw the ball slipping out of the receivers grasp giving the Blues a let-off.

Carnegie were then reduced to 14 men with ten minutes remaining on the clock. Griffiths had made a superb break but with little support nearby, he passed backwards. The ball hit the floor and Whiteley put his boot through it to kick into space but as the scrum half galloped onwards, he was cynically tripped and went crashing to the ground. Carnegie skipper Richard Mayhew was carded (although Josh Bainbridge looked on sheepishly as many suspected he was actually the guilty party).

Despite the numerical advantage, Bedford just could not find a way through. Myles Dorrian came close and there was frustration when Whiteley was judged to have knocked on a quick tap penalty. Carnegie remained solid and rounded off the win with a late penalty which Seals chipped over the uprights.

While Bedford cannot make the quarter finals of the British & Irish Cup, everything is set up for an exciting fixture next weekend when they head to Wales to face the Dragons Premiership XV. Neither team can advance, but national pride will be at stake.


See more of Nigel Rudgard's pictures HERE.

Next Home Match

Saturday 26th January
1st XV Championship
Goldington Road