Nottingham v Bedford Blues
Bedford Blues limped to their fifth defeat of the season at Nottingham this afternoon as late penalty earned the Green & Whites a last-gasp 26-24 victory.
Poor decision-making and infringements once again cost the Blues as they let victory slip through their fingers at Meadow Lane.
With neither side firing on all cylinders, neither eighth placed Bedford or 11th placed Nottingham achieved any sustained periods of ascendancy during the 80 minutes.
For the Blues it was an afternoon of prolonged malfunction as both of the hosts’ tries came from Blues mistakes, while all of Matt Jarvis’ penalties seemed to stem from players needlessly infringing.
Bedford made an encouraging start with a well-worked forwards try within two minutes of the start.
An early penalty was kicked to the corner by James Pritchard and a catch-and-drive from the from the resulting saw Don Barrell, and then Paul Tupai power forward, with the latter coming up with a try as the away team made the perfect start.
Nottingham hit straight back from the restart with a try of their own.
The Blues were held deep in their half from the kick-off as Brendan Burke had his clearance kick charged down by home centre Joe Munro, who scored his first try in over a year, with Jarvis adding the extras.
A stop-start encounter ensued with neither side able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
Pritchard nudged Bedford back in front with two successful penalties, while Jarvis hit an upright with one of his own and missed another straightforward penalty attempt before landing his third and easiest attempt to narrow the gap to 11-10.
As the first half neared its conclusion Bedford suddenly found a new gear and started to hold on to the ball for sustained phases.
After a good initial break by Mark Atkinson, the ball was recycled a couple of times before number eight Nick Fenton-Wells barged over from close range, with Pritchard’s neat conversion putting the Blues 18-10 at the break.
The rain fell heavily during the break, but had subsided once the sides retook the field.
The Blues made their way up the field from the restart before the home side infringed five yards out and Pritchard extended Bedford’s lead with another penalty.
The Green & Whites responded immediately with a penalty of their own from 35 yards out after the Blues were adjudged to have infringed again at the breakdown.
From the restart the Blues turned over the ball and, after being penalised at the scrum, the resulting lineout saw Nottingham’s impressive young number eight, Tom Calladine, rampage through the Blues defence to crash over with Jarvis converting to cut the gap to a single point.
Bedford proceeded to unravel as all decisions went against them. After Darren Fearn was penalised at the scrum Jarvis slotted over a 50-yard penalty to nudge the home side in front.
The game continued to stutter and start with the home fans growing increasingly frustrated.
The Blues weathered a sustained period of Nottingham pressure and, after George Catchpole was adjudged to have intentionally knocked on in midfield, Pritchard saw his penalty attempt drift wide.
Replacements came in the shape of Luke Baldwin, Jake Sharp, Tom Armes and Ben Gulliver as they all tried to inject something new into the game.
The Blues missed another penalty on 73 minutes when Burke was taken out chasing his own kick through as Nottingham winger Ed Styles was yellow-carded for the offence.
Temporarily Bedford made their numerical advantage count and a Nottingham scrum buckled on their own 22 as Pritchard calmly slotted over his kick to nudge the Blues back in front.
A nerve-wracking finish saw referee Darren Gamage award the home side a penalty in injury time and Jarvis banished all previous misses from his mind to calmly slot home the winning kick from just inside the 10m line.
The Blues had time to restart and tried to manufacture a position from which to strike, but continued to make mistakes as Gamage’s whistle brought to an end the game, much to the palpable relief of the home crowd.
Bedford face another tough trip to Cornish Pirates next Sunday.
15. Andrew Savage 14. Henry Purdy 13. George Catchpole 12. Joe Munro 11. Ed Styles 10. Matt Jarvis 9. Sean Romans 1. Campese Ma’afu 2. John Vickers 3. Michael Holford 4. Neilus Keogh 5. Dan Montagu 6. Rupert Cooper 7. Brent Wilson © 8. Tom Calladine
Reps – 16. Ryan Bower 17. Alun Walker 18. Tom Price 19. Joe Burton 20. Alex Shaw 21. Finlay Barnham 22. Rory Lynn
15. James Pritchard 14. Ollie Dodge 13. Brendan Burke 12. Mark Atkinson 11. Neville Edwards 10. Michael Le Bourgeois 9. Darryl Veenendaal 1. Darren Fearn 2. Scott Spurling 3. Phil Boulton 4. Mike Howard 5. Paul Tupai 6. Don Barrell 7. Sacha Harding 8. Nick Fenton Wells
Reps – 16. Charlie Clare 17. Nico Steenkamp 18. Ben Cooper 19. Ben Gulliver 20. Tom Armes 21. Luke Baldwin 22. Jake Sharp
Referee: Darren Gamage