MATCH REPORT V NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Bedford Blues were given a big workout ahead of their final three Championship fixtures as Premiership giants Northampton Saints descended on Goldington Road and duly left with a 17-52 win.
The game was never about the result for either team, but there were plenty of positives for the Blues to take away including two good tries scored by Tom James and Pat Tapley.
Speaking at the full-time whistle, the Blues returning skipper Michael Le Bourgeois said: “The boys played really well, there’s a lot of learning for us to take from it but we created some good opportunities and there’s a lot of positives to take as we head into the final few weeks of the season.
“We left too many tries out there tonight which is something that we’ll need to address but they are a quality Premiership side looking for a top four finish and they proved that by finishing their opportunities. We’ve got three games left and we need to take the positives forward from tonight.
“For me personally, it was great to be back. I was as excited as a puppy to be back out there and playing alongside the boys rather than training and watching them head out onto the field. It was good to be involved.”
Northampton started brightly and took just eight minutes to open the scoring. Former Blue Charlie Clare was the catalyst before David Ribbans showed a great step to cross the line with JJ Hanrahan converting.
Bedford showed some great attacking initiative when Josh Buggea, Jason Hill, Howard Packman and Le Bourgeois linked up before Dean Adamson broke well and hurtled towards the try line, but the Saints defence covered well and forced the error to win a scrum.
Moments later the visitors conceded a penalty and Jake Sharp slotted the ball over the posts to make it 3-7 but from the restart the Saints extended their lead. Bedford were looking to run the ball form their own 22, but as Piers O’Conor looked to find space, the ball was dislodged and regathered by the Saints who recycled it quickly with Lewis Ludlam scoring and Hanrahan adding the extras.
Sadly, Packman’s night ended early with a knock but his replacement Elliot Clements-Hill was straight in on the action and came close to scoring before being held in a tackle earning a penalty. Bedford took the quick one and thought they were over but the ref said Mike Howard was held. It mattered not though as from the resulting scrum, Tom James saw the space and sniped through to score with Sharp adding the extras.
Northampton regrouped and scored their third try of the evening just before the half time interval when penalties went their way allowing them to take a close-range lineout with Ribbans crossing the whitewash again but the conversion caught the wind and didn’t have the distance.
After the break, it was Bedford who started brightly and they got the crowd cheering with a try three minutes from the restart. A penalty allowed O’Conor to break through the defence and into the Saints 22 before offloading to the supporting Pat Tapley with Sharp making it 17-19.
The revival wasn’t to last long though as Northampton ran in five unanswered tries to put the icing on the cake with Ribbans completing his hat-trick in the 52nd minute from a driving maul and Hanrahan converted.
Bedford almost fired back when Jordan Burns, Sharp, Ollie Dodge and Clement-Hill linked up superbly but the ref spotted a forward pass and chalked off the score.
Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, Jordan Onojaife and Ed Taylor were called into action on numerous occasions to prevent further attacks but little could be done when Api Ratuniyarawa made a huge break down the middle of the pitch before being dumped by Hill but he got his pass away which resulted in Ludlam scoring a second try which was converted by Sam Olver.
Five minutes later and it was 17-40 when a lineout maul resulted in James Fish scoring and Olver converting before more quick hands put Juan Pablo Estelles over in the corner with Olver repeating the conversion.
The scoring came to an end in the 69th minute when James Grayson showed a great turn of pace to dot down but this time Olver’s boot could hit the target.
Bedford continued to press with replacements Byron Hodge, James Hallam, Charley Robinson and Ben Cooper carrying well while Ben Adams and Paul Tupai added plenty of fizz in the final ten minutes, while fly half Dan Lewis added plenty of pace and quick-thinking but Northampton held firm to seal the win.
Bedford are back in action next weekend with a trip to London Scottish in the Greene King IPA Championship.
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!
See more of Nigel Rudgard's pictures at http://frontrow.photium.com/rugby