Nottingham v Bedford Blues

Sunday, 2 September, 2018 - 15:00
1st XV Championship
Won 21-27

A brilliant rearguard action from 13-man Blues late in the game helped them battle to a hugely impressive six-point win at Nottingham on Sunday afternoon, writes Mark Wood.

The Blues looked to be cruising at 27-14 up thanks to two tries from young winger Ryan Hutler and centre Fraser Strachan, before two quick yellow cards for Oli Curry and Strachan set up a grandstand finish.

However, Blues youngsters refused to buckle and produced an outstanding defensive performance to keep the Green & Whites out until the last play as Bedford got their Championship campaign off to a winning start with a 27-21 triumph.

Proud Director of Rugby Mike Rayer hailed his side’s heart, saying: “We had to defend for our lives there, and fair play, we can’t coach that, that’s come from within the spirit amongst the group really. It was pretty desperate at times.

“We had the wind behind us second half and couldn’t get any field position, which was a bit frustrating.”

On Hutler’s second try, he continued: “An absolute moment of magic from Dean Adamson to put Ryan in for the second try gave us a bit of breathing space, which obviously we needed at the end.

“Down to 13 at one stage there was some unbelievable scrambling going on and our defence was just amazing at the end, it was terrific.

“We’ve all been around long enough to know that first games of the season are not so much about performance, but winning. But when you see a defensive performance like that it gives you quite a bit of heart again.”

The win came at a cost though with the Blues adding more walking wounded ahead of next weekend’s visit of Jersey.

Rayer said: “Unfortunately we’ve picked up another couple of injuries in the backs, which is pretty desperate for us really. We’ll have to reassess and there’s a short turnaround for Jersey. There’s a tough week ahead because they’ll be hurting after their loss to Coventry.

“It’s about enjoying the journey really in the season. Any win on the road in this Championship is to be savoured, so we will enjoy ourselves.”

The hosts started on the front foot and Shane O’Leary’s grubber through on three minutes was just beyond Luke Peter.

However, it was the visitors who took the lead with a terrific counter-attacking try on nine minutes when Lee Dickson intercepted a pass and scampered forward before cleverly releasing youngster Hutler to score under the posts with Will Hooley easily converting.

Bedford were showing good power at the scrum, but were giving away too many penalties at the breakdown. A short spell of pressure then allowed Bedford to extend their lead to 10 points midway through the half via a simple Hooley kick.

The Green & Whites hit back immediately though as they found numbers out wide and despite the best efforts of full-back Rich Lane, who almost fended off the three-on-one overlap, the hosts eventually juggled the ball through for Sean Scanlon to run in under the posts with O’Leary adding the easy extras to make it 10-7.

Every time Bedford went forward they looked dangerous and edged further ahead through Hooley’s successful penalty on 26 minutes.

Having found their groove Bedford grabbed their second try on the half hour. More power from the pack had laid the foundations and Dickson’s deft pass allowed Strachan to power over from close range as Hooley’s simple conversion made it 20-7.

Brilliance from Lane, beating four to five players with his dancing feet, was only just thwarted. Hooley shanked a penalty wide from distance just before the break before Llewelyn Jones was sin-binned for the hosts in the dying moments for a trip and Hutler was just unable to hold on to a fierce pass as Bedford attacked out wide with numbers, but still led 20-7 at the break.

Back to full strength, the hosts got themselves right back into it 13 minutes into the second half when ex-Blues scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal reached out to touch down through a swathe of bodies with O’Leary easily converting.

Bedford though restored their lead moments later when Adamson’s brilliant flick allowed Hutler to round in for his second score with Ed Coulson’s true kick extending their lead further.

After several Notts lineouts were felled Oli Curry was sin-binned on 65 minutes, while Strachan followed him six minutes later as injuries and cards put Bedford’s backs to the wall.

Playing with 13 men Bedford fought valiantly, defending bravely and winning penalties at crucial moments. Joe Green put in a try-saving tackle on David Williams in the last minute of normal time as Bedford returned to a full complement after what seemed an eternity.

Nottingham did finally earn a losing bonus point in the 12th-minute of stoppage time when Will Millett darted over from close range and O’Leary converted with the last kick of the game.

Rayer praised the performance of his youngsters, adding: “Fraser Strachan’s come in and done an unbelievable job, he’s only been with us for a few weeks.

“Ryan Hutler gets two tries. We’ve seen the promise in Ryan for a number of years now, but hopefully now he will start to flourish a bit with a little bit of confidence. And young Joe Green came on and made a try-saving tackle and he was part of a strong defensive performance there right at the death.”

Nottingham: Sean Scanlon, Jack Spittle (David Williams 77), Will Millett, Luke Peters, Billy Robinson, Shane O’Leary, Darryl Veenendaal (C, Murray McConnell 59), Aniseko Sio (Jamie Jack 74), Ben Brownlie (Luke Cole 52), Oisin Heffernan (Rory Burke 74), Llewelyn Jones, Danny Qualter, Shane Buckley, Will Owen (George Cox 52), Josh Poullet. Replacements not used: Seb Cecil.
Scores: T: Scanlon 21, Veenendaal 53; Millett 80+12. C: O’Leary 22, 54, 80+13.

Blues: Rich Lane, Ryan Hutler, Ed Coulson, Fraser Strachan, Dean Adamson, Will Hooley (Joe Green 69), Lee Dickson (C, James Lennon 59), Sean McCarthy (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 80), Charlie Clare, Alex Penny (Ben Cooper 57), Will Carrick-Smith, Mark Flanagan (Oli Curry 57), Alex Rae, Josh Buggea, Huw Worthington (Jarad Williams 48).
Replacements not used: Jacob Fields.
Scores: T: Hutler 9, 56; Strachan 30. C: Hooley 10, 30; Coulson 59. P: Hooley 20, 26.

Sin-binned: Llewelyn Jones 40+1; Oli Curry 65; Fraser Strachan 71.

Attendance: 1,150.

Next Home Match

Saturday 1st December
1st XV Cup
Goldington Road
Kick-Off
3.00pm

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