Hartpury College v Bedford Blues

Saturday, 7 April, 2018 - 14:30
1st XV Championship
Won 21-26

It was something of a Jekyll and Hyde performance for Bedford at Hartpury College on Saturday afternoon, but the Blues had enough in the tank to secure a bonus point win thanks to a try deep into stoppage time.

Bedford had safely led 0-19 at the interval, but three second half scores - all converted - for Hartpury had given the home team the lead as the clock turned red. But you can never count the Blues out, and a patient build-up from a scrum led to Howard Packman pinning back his ears to race over and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

It certainly wasn’t the prettiest 80 minutes of rugby that you will ever see with both sides pretty much cancelling one another out for the first half hour of proceedings. Hartpury arguably had the upper hand in terms of territory, but handling errors and strong defence denied them any clear-cut chances.

The home side looked to build an attack in the 16th minute but were continuously sent packing as Harry Sheppard, Chris Czekaj, Ed Taylor and Justin Blanchet landed good tackles with the pack quickly assembling to deny quick ball.

When Bedford did have the ball in hand it was George Edgson leading the charge with his front row buddies Alex Penny and Camilo Parilli-Ocampo on hand to help out. Slowly, Bedford started seeing more of the ball allowing Jordan Burns to orchestrate his backs with Sheppard, Czekaj and Rory Hutchinson spreading the ball out wide to the pacey back three who looked to find gaps.

But the opening score came in the 34th minute courtesy of quick thinking rather than quick feet. A succession of penalties allowed Bedford to set up camp in Hartpury’s 22 before Alex Craig was carded. Another penalty followed and Burns quickly gathered, looped a basketball-esq shot over to Williams who tapped and drove over from five metres out for an unconverted try.

Five minutes later and Bedford were over for a second in a far more familiar fashion. Waves of attack had gone forward before Hartpury managed to kick the ball long. It went straight to Elliot Clements-Hill who went on a twisting run back into the hosts 22, sold a dummy and then played in Rich Lane who galloped over with Sheppard converting.

A third try followed before the interval and it was a true team effort. Josh Buggea collected a lineout ball to get the show on the road with a maul leading to Edgson breaking away. Eleven more phases of pick-and-go followed before the Burns and Sheppard combination released Packman and he in turn popped the ball to Williams to score the converted try.

All looked good at 0-19 as the second half got underway but Hartpury proved yet again, that they aren’t in the Championship to make up the numbers. Less than two minutes in and the Blues line was under attack before Dan Murphy drove over from close range with James Williams adding the extras.

Bedford never really settled and the home side were enjoying much more of the ball with scrum half Harry Randall pulling the strings and causing all sorts of mayhem for the Blues. Plenty of changes followed but Bedford just couldn’t keep hold of the ball and ill-discipline was starting to creep in.

Hartpury’s second try came on the 60 minute mark following another fine break from Randall. Numerous pick-and-goes followed with Hartpury inching closer to the line before Murphy went over again and Williams converted once more.

Hartpury continued to push forward and Bedford’s defence had to show the same resilience it did last weekend. Ben Cooper, Tom Lindsay, Jordan Onojaife and Ben Adams were all on and making big hits, but the Gloucestershire side had momentum and were pushing hard. The Blues had to thank a wonky lineout for some relief as they were pinned back again by the boot of Williams.

In the 71st minute, Bedford had the chance to create some daylight when Hartpury were punished for an offside, but Will Hooley’s penalty went agonisingly wide and the hosts remained just five points adrift of the Blues.

Back up the other end went the hosts and they inundated the Blues line with attack after attack. Murphy came close to a hat-trick but was judged to have been held up, but it mattered not as a try followed soon after.

The ground clock was in the 80th minute when Hartpury struck in a familiar fashion. Penalties and lineouts saw no reward, so Randall decided on the tap-and-go instead with rewards at the second attempt. While the first attack was halted, Hartpury persisted and Rob Langley dove over the line to score and Williams converted to give the home side a 21-19 lead.

Thankfully, Bedford’s heads never dropped and the team rallied to mount an exhilarating final few minutes. Hartpury took in the restart and sensibly kept hold of the ball for a tremendous amount of phases as they inched towards the halfway line. Then, they broke left but the pass intended for the winger went forward and Bedford had the scrum. While the ball didn’t get in on the first attempt, it was quickly hooked back the second time and Bedford attacked. Burns, Hooley, Michael Le Bourgeois set off before Blanchet, Cooper, Adams and Will Carrick-Smith smashed through allowing the space to form for Burns to feed Packman and the speedster went over to the sheer delight of his teammates and Hooley converted to seal the win.

Bedford return to Goldington Road next weekend to face the Cornish Pirates in the Greene King IPA Championship. Buy discounted tickets online now!


Next Home Match

Saturday 21st September
1st XV Cup
Goldington Road



See more pictures courtesy of Nigel Rudgard at