TOOPS TESTIMONIAL MATCH REPORT

Paul Tupai bid a fond farewell to his playing career on Sunday afternoon as past and present players of Bedford Blues and Northampton Saints played out a thrilling testimonial game which finished 80-74.

While the scoreline didn’t matter in the slightest, what was important was that final opportunity to say thank you to Toops for a glorious ten year playing career with the Blues. 

Over 2,000 fans turned up on the day - along with glorious sunshine - and they were treated to an absolute try-fest and champagne rugby thanks to the tactical nous on the touchlines of coaches Matt Volland and Dylan Hartley while All Blacks legend Zinzan Brooke took on the role of water (cough cough) boy.

The game was barely 30 seconds old when the first try was scored after an audacious attempt of a  through the legs pass was plucked off by Dean Adamson who cantered over the line before converting his own effort. A minute later and it was all level when Ben Foden dashed over the try line and added the extras.

Things went back and forth with Bruce Reihana racing in a score to put the Saints ahead but Dean Adamson restored the Blues lead when he showed exceptional pace to out-gas the chasing Foden who heroically tried to take the Blues winger down with a last-gasp ankle tap… He missed by about ten metres...

Ben Adams and a Rich Lane double put points on for the Blues but Saints stayed in touch as Reihana ran in twice more for his hat-trick before Rory Hutchinson and Paul Diggin both crossed to give the visiting side a 33-43 half-time lead.

The Spice Girls – sporting some impressive facial hair - made an appearance at half time but once rehydrated the teams were back out for more fun and frolics in the sun as Vili Hakalo scored for the Saints before Gregor Gillanders raced away and converted his own effort for the Blues. Jordan Burns extended the Saints lead to 40-55 before a barrage of Blues tries from Ed Taylor, Sean Vine, Rich Lane (hat-trick) and Connor Tupai, turned the game around to 66-55 to Bedford.

Special mention also goes to man on the mic Sam Roberts for some wonderful running commentary including cheekily selling Bedford as a town and a club to former Foden: "...it's a nice pitch isn't it Ben! You look good running around out there. Just saying in case you fancy sticking around!" As well as a cheeky poke at Darren Fox who put a huge hit on Tupai: "Foxy, ladies and gentlemen - completely forgetting whose day it is!"

Keeping track of the scorers became a bit tough when a trip to the ice cream van was required, but by the time a Mr Whippy with flake was devoured, Karl Dickson raced in to give the Blues an 80-67 lead before a final Saints try rounded off the day 80-74.

At full time, both teams came together to congratulate Toops firstly on not getting carded in the game, and then on his fantastic playing career. 

We will never see another Paul Tupai in rugby – a man who, like the game, transitioned from amateur to professional and brought with him all of the values that he held dear from those early days in New Zealand to that final competitive game against Richmond just a week ago. 

It has been an honour and a privilege to have watched Tupai play this last decade at Goldington Road and we will all have our favourite moments whether it be him steamrolling Neil Best at Sixways, celebrating his offload to Burns against London Welsh with a little jig, or just making hit after hit after hit as he put his body on the line for the Blues.

No matter what your favourite Paul Tupai moment was, I think that every single Blues fan just wants to say thank you Toops for everything you have done both on and off the pitch. Legend! 

COME ON YOU BLUES – SEND IN THE TOOPS!!!

See more of Nigel Rudgard's snaps HERE

Next Home Match

Friday 24th August
1st XV Pre Season
Goldington Road
Kick-Off
7.45pm

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