Bedford Blues v Ealing Trailfinders
Bedford Blues recovered from 14-0 down after 13 minutes to draw 19 all with Ealing Trailfinders at Goldington Road in the third pool game of the British and Irish Cup on Saturday afternoon.
A try for Jason Hill plus eight points from the boot of Jake Sharp and two penalties from Myles Dorrian were enough to tie a game which saw Ealing hooker Alun Walker cross for a hat-trick on a soggy afternoon in Bedford.
Speaking after the game, Ed Taylor, who captained the Blues, said: “We had a very slow start and didn’t really get out of the blocks plus the added bonus of the weather didn’t help at all. We’ve been working all week on our defensive mauling and I think that went really well today. As forwards we need to work harder at the lineout to secure more ball and have some safer options when the weather is like it was today. I thought our kicking game was fantastic today and credit to the back three, fly half and scrum half for their efforts. It was something the coaches had pinpointed and it was hugely effective.
“While we are happy to have come back from 14-0 down, when we are in their 22 in the dying minutes we want to come away with points and the win. You could see at the end of the game that neither team celebrated drawing, everyone wants to win and it was credit to both sides for playing right until the end.
“It was a solid two points but at home and with this crowd we really wanted to get a win.”
It was certainly a day for ducks (plus fly halves who like punting big up-and-unders) and the rain could claim the assist for the opening Ealing try which came in the second minute. Ben Adams was unable to gather the kick off before the visitors won a penalty at the resulting scrum. A well-worked lineout saw hooker Alun Walker rumbling over before Aaron Penberthy converted.
Bedford were struggling for territory in the opening exchanges and Ealing made full use of the slope to pin the Blues back further. The visitors got their reward in the 12th minute as another penalty went to touch. While the lineout didn’t run as smoothly as the first, the ball was quickly recycled with Walker gliding over from close range and the ref awarded the try after a long discussion with his assistant. Penberthy added the extras once more.
Bedford needed a response and they almost got one when Matt Gallagher called a good mark from a Penberthy kick before tapping and running with Jason Hill in support. The number eight then released Jordan Burns who galloped away but as he was brought down, he clung on and Ealing won a penalty.
The Eagle Stand found its voice moments later though when Jake Sharp sent a huge kick skywards and as James Cordy Redden caught it, he was clattered by Elliot Clements-Hill and the Blues regathered the ball but their brief foray into the Ealing 22 ended with another knock on.
The Blues were coming more and more into the game and a penalty in the 28th minute saw touch found and a lineout 15 metres from Ealing’s line. Bedford collected and set a maul but it was illegally stopped so the resulting penalty went five metres out. Again, Ealing were about to be pinged once more, but Hill didn’t care as he gathered and drove his way over with Sharp converting to make it 7-14.
Bedford were enjoy plenty of ball, but credit has to go to Ealing – and particular Glen Townson – who disrupted the Blues lineout on numerous occasions throughout the game.
That said, Bedford were firing on all cylinders and were awarded a 34th minute penalty when Dan George, Ben Adams and Tom Farrell all combined well before Ealing failed to release and Sharp fired the ball over the uprights. Five minutes later and he repeated the feat to make it 13-14 when Ealing brought down a maul and that’s how the half ended.
Ealing were once against out of the blocks fast and Walker sealed a hat-trick with a well worked try. A penalty got the ball rolling before forwards and backs combined to edge nearer the line and the hooker grounded from close range, but Penberthy’s conversion was off target.
The visitor’s looked to make their early breakthrough count as another driving maul was driven into the Blues 22, but this time the Bedford forwards did a solid job and the attack was soon snuffed out.
Despite the weather, Bedford looked to run as much as possible with Gallagher, George Perkins and Myles Dorrian all linking up well, but the wet ball was playing havoc for those looking to show quick hands.
Dorrian was able to reduce the deficit to just three points on the hour mark when he struck a fine effort over the sticks after Ealing were penalised for being offside at a ruck.
Changes all round saw Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Chris Judge packing down in the front row and they had an immediate impact as they obliterated an Ealing scrum and Dorrian was able to chip the resulting penalty over to level the game 19 all.
Neither side was backing down and both sought the victory as time ticked on and things almost boiled over when Perkins made a superb challenge to stop an Ealing attack and the visitors were then penalised for going off their feet. The forwards didn’t agree and a melee resulted with the level-headed Paul Tupai on hand to calm tempers down.
Tom James, Dorrian and Perkins linked together beautifully in the 70th minute after the Blues forwards had made good ground and James spotted the slightest of gaps in the ruck, but Ealing’s full back - and former Blue – Will Harries covered well and made the mark to prevent a run in.
It was back up the other end soon though as a well struck penalty gave the visitors a lineout eight metres from the Blues line. The ball found the right man, but the Bedford forwards absolutely smashed the maul before it could get going and forced a turnover which was cleared to touch.
Bedford continued to press for the winning score and they almost got through when James sniped through a gap with Josh Buggea for support but as he looked to release Ollie Dodge, the ball agonizingly slipped form his grasp.
It proved to be the final real chance of an entertaining game as the match came to an end – quite fittingly - following an Ealing knock on. It is, however, just half time as the two teams will go head-to-head once again next weekend at Vallis Way.
Come on you Blues!!!