Bedford Blues v Nottingham
It was to be a frustrating afternoon at Goldington Road as Bedford Blues tasted defeat against Nottingham with an 80th minute Darryl Veenendaal conversion winning it for the Green and Whites.
The Blues, in truth, were fortunate to be ahead at that point in the game after a disappointing end to the first 40 minutes and a miserable start to the second half second half had seen the visitors come from 22-0 down to lead 22-29. Tom James and Piers O’Conor crossed in the final ten minutes to give the Blues a slender lead before Tobias Freeman galloped over and former Blue Veenendaal sealed the win.
Pulling no punches after the game, Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “It was one of the most difficult performances I’ve ever had to endure. We butchered about 14 points in the opening ten minutes, managed to get ourselves ahead but then gave them a leg up back into the game by giving away penalties and they went up the other end and scored. It was a shocking lack of discipline followed by gift wrapping them a try just before half time.
“We started well after the break but then we went for a crazy kick through which they gathered in and score. That momentum had gone and we got what we deserved. That was one of the poorest performances I’ve ever seen from us.
“We nearly got away with it at the end. But it would have been papering over the cracks. When we stick to the script we play some fantastic rugby and score good tries, but when we deviate we are in trouble. There aren’t massive problems, just small silly things that end up being catastrophic and not just today, but in other games as well.
“I’ve got to give credit to the lads though as they worked hard to come back into the game and take the lead with two late tries showed a fair amount of ticker but then we went and kicked possession away again. Nottingham are dangerous in broken play and we were punished.”
Bedford were ahead after just a minute as Nottingham were pinged for being offside from the kick-off and Jake Sharp slotted the resulting penalty with seeming ease.
The Blues were the team showing all of the early attacking intent as they headed down the slope but they couldn’t quite complete the early chances that presented themselves. Bedford persevered though and when a free kick was awarded at a five metre scrum, Ben Adams decided to have a crack and he bulldozed his way over for the score with Sharp adding the extras.
Nottingham were reduced to 14 men when former Blue James Stephenson was carded in the 14th minute for a deliberate knock on and things got even worse six minutes later. The Blues had stringed together a fine attack down the left hand wing with Michael Le Bourgeois latching onto a Dean Adamson pass, but as he looked to feed Jordan Burns the ball was once again deliberately knocked on by Oli Evans who was carded before the ref ran under the posts from the halfway line to award a penalty try which Sharp converted.
Bedford turned the screw more a couple of minutes later when another good attack down the left wing saw Adamson in acres of room and he sprinted clear for an unconverted try.
As Nottingham returned to full strength, they showed more and more of their attacking prowess. Bedford’s discipline let them down as a series of penalties allowed Nottingham to kick from their own five metre line up to the Blues and a driving maul resulted in hooker Jimmy Stevens going over before Veenendaal sliced the conversion.
But the former Blue made the Goldington Road crowd pay for their sniggers (it was a conversion attempt to forget) as he crossed the whitewash on the stroke of half time. The scrum half, who was playing at ten due to an injury crisis, was played in by Vili Hakalo to score an unconverted effort.
Nottingham came hurtling out the blocks after the break with David Williams collecting his own chip over the top to score their third try under the sticks with Veenendaal adding the extras.
Three minutes later and the visitors moved ahead as Bedford shot themselves in the foot. Sharp looked to place a grubber through the gap but Nottingham were alert with Oli Evans collecting, running well and offloading to Murray McConnell who scored under the posts with Veenendaal converting to make it 22-24
Nottingham continued to pile on the pressure and fullback Jack Spittle put his team further ahead on the hour mark as he spotted a big hole beside a ruck and scurried through to make it 22-29.
Bedford kicked into gear and started putting phases together but were finding it tough to execute their moves. It took until the 70th minute when replacement scrum half Tom James went over having just come on the pitch. A Blues lineout saw the pack rumble toward the line before James spotted space and shimmied his way over.
With three minutes left on the clock, the Blues took the lead. Having worked their way into the Nottingham 22, the ref had his arm out for an advantage so Sharp chipped the ball wing-wards only for a Nottingham hand to gather the ball and then drop it. Piers O’Conor scooped in the loose ball and scored with Sharp adding the extras.
Sadly, the Blues couldn’t hold out and Freeman duly scored despite the best efforts of Pat Tapley and Veenendaal put the icing on the cake for the Green and Whites