It was a case of close but no cigar as Bedford Blues gave league leaders Bristol a real run for their money in a classic encounter at Goldington Road on Boxing Day.

If you were one of the 4401 fans inside the ground (and of the Blues persuasion of course) then here is how the game would have gone: Oh no... (0-7). Hang on a second (5-7 try James Pritchard). Yes! (10-7 try Harry Wells). You beauty (17-7 try Adamson, conversion Pritchard). Half time. Blast (17-14). No no no (17-21). Oh please no (17-28). Yesssss (24-28 try Tapley, con Pritchard). COME ON YOU BLUES!!! 

Bedford took an early hit as a monstrous maul from Bristol marched its way up the field and over the try line with Olly Robinson popping up with the ball and Nicky Robinson, who had missed a second minute penalty – converting to give the visitors a perfect start.

Blues fans may have feared the worst against a Bristol side who are yet to taste defeat this season but the Blues bounced straight back and went on the attack. A long range penalty was missed by Jake Sharp but the fly half was integral to Bedford’s first try. Sharp played a sublime chip over the rushing Bristol defence which was gathered superbly by Mike Le Bourgeois who made yards before feeding Dean Adamson. The flying winger drew the defender before popping the ball up to James Pritchard who powered his way over the try line to the delight of the Goldington Road faithful.

Despite missing the conversion, the Blues continued to press and they were rewarded once again ten minutes later but this time it was all down to the forwards. Mitch Eadie was binned after a succession of penalties went against Bristol and then Bedford made the extra man count. A lineout was collected but Paul Tupai was stopped just short of the line but Harry Wells was on hand to propel himself over the try line for an unconverted score and the Blues had the lead.

Things got even better for the home side in the 30th minute when they went even further ahead. Bedford, who were playing up the slope, were dominating territory and then punished Bristol again. This time Darryl Veenendaal sprinted away from the back of a ruck and as Bristol closed him down, he slipped the ball to Adamson who sprinted forward and then went over the final defender before reaching for the line. It was third time lucky for Pritchard who added the extras to give Bedford a 17-7 half time lead.

Bristol regrouped at the interval and did all they could to starve the Blues of possession. After pinning Bedford back the visitors played the ball along the line and with an overlap in place, Andy Short dotted down with Nicky Robinson Converting again.

Ten minutes later and Bristol moved ahead with an almost carbon copy of their first opening try. A driving maul plodded its way forward with hooker Chris Brooker crossing the whitewash and Robinson adding two more points.

From the restart Bristol picked up their fourth try and it was Brooker again with the score. Bedford lost their lineout out in the 22 and after a number of phases, Brooker spotted a gap at the ruck and galloped through to score beside the posts giving Robinson a simple conversion.

The huge crowd were still in fine voice and neither they nor the players were done yet. As the clock neared the 80th minute, Bedford got their chance and took it. Some smart handling saw the ball come out to Pat Tapley, who had been nursing a back injury moments before, and he turned on the gas to streak past the final Bristol defender and score with Pritchard quickly converting to make it 24-28.

Sadly, time was almost up and as Bedford tried for the final push from deep in their own 22, the slippery ball came off a Blues hand and you could see the relief on the faces of the Bristol players.


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Friday 23rd August
1st XV Pre Season
Goldington Road