Bedford Blues secured a semi-final spot in the British & Irish Cup following a monumental encounter against Ulster A at Goldington Road.

While a try from Rich Lane and 11 points from Will Hooley’s boot did the business on the scoreboard, it was the dogged Blues defence which ultimately won the game as Ulster threw everything including the kitchen sink at Bedford in the dying minutes of the game.

Speaking at full time, Blues scrum-half Jordan Burns said: “It was a great match. They were very physical and we were defending for most of that second half but it was a good game. We knew they’d include a number of first team players but we knew that we had to do well on our home patch and that was reflected in the scoreline.

“We lacked some accuracy in the opening half, but credit to the defence as it held up brilliantly and was magnificent and that was the difference.”

Ulster started the game in fine fashion with some well worked phases and good carries, but it was the Blues who opened the scoring when Will Hooley slotted a seventh minute penalty after the visitors were pinged at the ruck.

Ulster continued to play the more attractive rugby in the early exchanges and Marcus Rea almost found a way through but for some fine cover defence from Alex Rae, Michael Le Bourgeois and Sean McCarthy.

Things switched to the other end of the pitch as Bedford found some space and it looked as though Huw Worthington had just about made it to the line, but it wasn’t to be and a knock on saw Ulster clearing their line from the resulting scrum.

Bedford continued to push and almost came close again despite half the ground thinking that Le Bourgeois’s pass had been intercepted. Somehow, it got through to Will Carrick-Smith who darted into the 22 but his pass to Jordan Onojaife couldn’t be gathered and again Ulster were off the hook.

The mistakes proved costly for the Blues as Ulster scored with their first real foray into the Blues 22. A penalty went to touch, the lineout maul was set up, and hooker Adam McBurney drove over with Peter Nelson adding the extras.

The Blues were guilty of throwing away possession as numerous lineouts failed to find their intended target, but Goldington Road came to life in the 35th minute when Jordan Burns released Hooley, Le Bourgeois and Hutchinson before Dean Adamson chipped over. Although Ulster covered, Hutchinson was on hand to carry the man back over the line providing an attacking Blues scrum. Bedford attacked form the scrum and despite being unable to find a way through, they picked up another penalty which Hooley slotted.

Bedford continued the onslaught towards the Ulster line, but the visitors weren’t in the mood to be breached despite more fine attacking Blues play. Burns, Hooley, Le Bourgeois and Hutchinson were at it again but Ulster infringed and Hooley tucked away his third penalty of the afternoon.

But Bedford couldn’t maintain their lead in a deep into stoppage time, they were on the receiving end of the referee’s whistle and Nelson converted his attempt to give the Northern Irish side a 9-10 lead at the interval.

The second half, much like the first, was all about staunch defending and ultimately, it was Bedford’s which faired better overall. There were some intriguing match-ups early on with kicks being exchanged and Adamson almost finding a way through following a deflected Hutchinson grubber, but the only score of half came eight minutes in.

Bedford got the ball rolling with a well worked lineout which saw Jordan Onojaife catching the ball and being powered forwards by Jacob Fields, Dave Spelman, Alex Rae and the impressive Carrick-Smith before Le Bourgeois, Worthington and Howard Packman all carried well. The spark then came from the bottom of a ruck when Burns and Le Bourgeois linked up with Jarad  Williams punching his way through before Rich Lane gathered the ball, danced past the defence and dotted down in the corner with Hooley converting a belter to make it 16-10.

The Blues defence came under increasing pressure as the game wore and full credit to Ulster, they fought and fought but were repelled and repelled. Carrick-Smith, Packman, and Onojaife were launching themselves into everything while replacements George Edgson, Alex Penny and Justin Blanchet chopped down Ulstermen like trees.

With ten minutes to go, Ulster were knocking on the door and came close when Angus Curtis gather and went over the line, but Bedford somehow kept him from grounding the ball. Ulster attacked from the scrum but were driven backwards as the Blues defensive machine went into overdrive and handbags finally flared. The ref did the sensible thing, talked sense to the players involved, warned the captain’s and the game carried on.

As the clock ticked down, Bedford were again on the backfoot, but once more the likes of Hutchinson, Carrick-Smith, Rae and Blanchet smashed the attackers and when the penalty went Bedford’s way there was a resounding cheer from players and fans alike.

Bedford ended the game with 14 men when Packman was carded for a melee with the Ulster physio, but the Blues held firm and celebrated in style when they won a penalty, tapped it and sent it to touch.

The Blues will now face Ealing Trailfinders in the semi-final of the British & Irish Cup after they defeated Cornish Pirates 28-25.


Next Home Match

Friday 23rd August
1st XV Pre Season
Goldington Road