Plymouth Albion v Bedford Blues
Bedford Blues narrowly overcame Plymouth Albion 28-27 in a topsy-turvy encounter at Brickfields on Saturday.
Paul Roberts missed a last minute conversion as Bedford secured a bonus point victory by a single point.
The home side had only beaten the Blues once in their previous 10 meetings and they got off to the worst possible start when Neil Cochrane scored after five minutes.
Bedford continued to enjoy much of the possession in the opening half an hour as James Stephenson added a second.
However, Plymouth responded and scored a converted try through Rhodri McAtee, while Roberts slotted home a penalty right on half time as Bedford led 14-10 at the break.
Albion continued to apply the pressure at the start of the second half and they were rewarded as Harrison Tovey went over.
Josh Bassett was the next man to cross for the Blues, but the visitors’ lead was short-lived as Ruairi Cushion put Plymouth back in front.
With five minutes to go Mark Atkinson set up Darryl Veenendaal to score, but in time added on Aaron Carpenter’s try moved Plymouth to within a point, only for Roberts to miss with the final kick.
Bedford made five changes to the side that beat Jersey last weekend. Phil Boulton, Paul Tupai, Darren Fox, Luke Baldwin and Brendan Burke all returned to the starting line-up, while there was a place on the bench for the returning Myles Dorrian.
The Blues got off a flying start and scored the game’s first try within five minutes. After opting for a lineout from a penalty, the Bedford forwards got to work and drove Albion back 10 metres, enabling Cochrane to score.
James Pritchard converted and Bedford went close again minutes later. Atkinson broke free from the Plymouth defence and he played in winger Stephenson who cut back inside his man, however, when he tried to offload Albion cleared the ball to touch.
The visitors kept on coming and Baldwin thought he had scored when his quickly taken penalty deceived the Plymouth defence, only for the ball to be held up in the goal area.
As the first half wore on the home team enjoyed their first spell of possession, yet it was the Blues who came closest to scoring again.
A lineout 10-metres from Plymouth’s line again saw the Bedford forwards drive them back. Cochrane got the ball down but referee, Steve Lee, said the ball had been held up again.
But from the resulting five-metre scrum Bedford did get their second try. The ball was worked out of the set-piece quickly and Stephenson crashed over, with Pritchard again adding the extras.
However, Plymouth scored instantly from the restart. They turned the ball over inside the Blues’ 22 and, after several phases, McAtee crossed and Roberts converted to put the home side right back in it.
With their tails up, Plymouth reduced the deficit further thanks to a Roberts penalty after Bedford failed to release in the tackle as Blues led 14-10 at the break with everything still to play for.
And it was the Albion who made a rapid start to the second period as second row Tovey ran down the wing and powered his way past Bassett to score.
Roberts missed the conversion, but for the first time in the match Plymouth led at 15-14.
Nevertheless their advantage didn’t last long. Bedford worked the ball well in the middle of the pitch and Jake Sharp spotted Bassett with a pass that allowed the winger to race through and score.
Pritchard converted and, with the game was being played at a frantic pace, Plymouth touched down soon after.
A scrum inside the Blues half fed Bevon Armitage who combined well with Cushion and the scrum-half dived under the posts as Roberts conversion once again edged the hosts into the lead.
As time wore on the home side kept the ball well as they made life difficult for the Blues.
However, with five minutes to play Atkinson split the Albion defence with a superb break, before playing in replacement scrum-half Veenendaal to score.
Pritchard converted the pressure kick, but if anyone thought the game was over then they were mistaken.
With the clock ticking past 80 minutes, Albion camped themselves deep in the Blues’ territory and, after a series of penalties, the ball was sprayed wide to Carpenter who scrambled it home in the corner.
Brickfields erupted, but any hope of a victory was short-lived as Roberts skewed his kick from the touchline wide.
Time was up and Bedford had just about done enough for a victory to keep them second in the Championship table.
Albion: Jack Andrew (David Morton 73), Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Rupeni Nasiga, Harrison Tovey (Sam Matavesi 67), Sean-Michael Stephen, Sam Hocking, Aaron Carpenter, Ruairi Cushion (C), Paul Roberts, Tom Bowen (Paul Rowley 62), Bevon Armitage, Tobias Howley-Berridge, Lewis Warner, Rhodri McAtee (Paul Bailey 40). Replacements not used: Ben Rogers, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Wayne Sprangle. T: McAtee, Tovey, Cushion, Carpenter. C: Roberts 2. P: Roberts.
Blues: Ricky Reeves, Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton (Dan Seal 46), Paul Tupai (Ben Gulliver 46), Mike Howard, Gregor Gillanders, Darren Fox, Don Barrell (Tom Armes 40), Luke Baldwin (Darryl Veenendaal 74), Jake Sharp (Myles Dorrian 50), Josh Bassett, Mark Atkinson, Brendan Burke (Ollie Dodge 63), James Stephenson, James Pritchard (C). Replacements not used: Chris Locke. T: Cochrane, Stephenson, Bassett, Veenendaal. C: Pritchard 4.
Referee: Steve Lee.
Touch Judges: Nick Williams and James Minards.