British & Irish Cup Pool Three: Bedford Blues 29 (14) Llanelli 24 (10)
Bedford Blues managed their first victory of the season with a 29-24 triumph against Llanelli in their second British & Irish Cup clash at Goldington Road this afternoon, writes Ted Kemplen.
An all-round strong team performance from the Blues saw them score five tries against their Welsh visitors through Ollie Dodge, Mike Howard, Michael Le Bourgeois, Charlie Clare and Neville Edwards.
James Pritchard also kicked two conversions for the Blues, while Llanelli got their points through two tries by Aaron Warren and one from Darran Harris, with Josh Lewis kicking a penalty and two conversions and substitute Johnny Lewis adding one.
Llanelli opened the scored through Josh Lewis’ penalty, which he confidently converted from close to the half way line.
Their lead didn’t last long though as, after a break from Blues scrum-half Luke Baldwin had led to a lineout, Clare powered over with Pritchard adding the extras.
That led to a spell of dominance for the Blues from the forwards as Don Barrell and Paul Tupai battled well as Dodge was slipped in by Mark Atkinson. Dodge, making his 151st game for the Blues, dived over between the posts, as Pritchard easily embellished the score.
Ten minutes later Llanelli replied to Bedford’s early onslaught by getting over through Warren, with Josh Lewis converting to make it 14-10.
The remainder of the half saw Bedford drop down to 13 men as, after Pritchard received a yellow for kicking the ball away following a Llanelli attack, Darren Fox received the same punishment after he was deemed to have purposely tripped an opponent.
Llanelli tried to make the most of their two-man advantage, but the Blues showed real pedigree to go into the break still ahead.
There were no alterations at the interval and Bedford held the crowd in awe as they stuck it to the visitors, with Nick Fenton-Wells, on his return from injury, powering a move that saw Le Bourgeois cross to make it 19-10.
There was uproar from the crowd as the Goldington Road faithful waited for Pritchard and Fox to be allowed back on, as Pritchard finally returned seven minutes into the second half with Fox following two minutes later.
Bedford defended well as they waited for the pair to return, with Le Bourgeois and Dodge scrambling well to stop a Llanelli break in the 46th minute.
However, there were more moans from the home crowd as a series of second half decisions seemed to go against them.
The Blues didn’t let the referee’s calls influence them though as Jake Sharp flew through a gap in the Llanelli line to slip in Howard and he tumbled over the line to make it 24-10.
Substitutions then flowed as Llanelli looked beaten. However, they regrouped and gained a lifeline on 63 minutes when Harris outpaced Pritchard to score and Josh Lewis converted.
Harris inspired some fight from the away side but, when Pritchard broke down the right and was taken out, karma prevailed as the Blues worked it to the other side for Edwards to dive over and make it 29-17.
Llanelli fought hard in the last 10 minutes and got some reward right before the end when Warren nipped over the line and Johnny Lewis added the extras with the last kick of the game as Bedford prevailed 29-24.
Blues: Nick Auterac (Phil Boulton, 55), Charlie Clare, Ben Cooper (Darren Fearn, 55), Mike Howard (Ben Gulliver, 65), Paul Tupai, Don Barrell, Darren Fox (Nico Steenkamp, 72), Nick Fenton-Wells (Darryl Veenendaal, 65), Luke Baldwin (Sacha Harding, 65), Jake Sharp, James Pritchard (C), Mark Atkinson (Neville Edwards, 51), Brendan Burke, Ollie Dodge, Michael Le Bourgeois. T: Dodge, Le Bourgeois, Edwards, Clare, Howard. C: Pritchard 2.
Llanelli: Gareth Thomas (Rhys Thomas,73), Darran Harris, Aled Hopkins (Dean Howells, 55), Llewellyn Jones, Richard Kelly (C, Craig Hawkins, 80), Lewis Rawlins, Dan Thomas, Sion Bennet (Duane Edgar, 15), Aled Davies (Josh Adams, 60), Josh Lewis (Johnny Lewis, 69), Aaron Warren, Adam warren, Dylan Morgan, Steffan Evans, Dion Jones. T: Warren 2, Harris. P: Josh Lewis. C: Josh Lewis 2, Johnny Lewis.
Referee: Gary Conway.
Touch Judges: Luke Haskins and Darryl Chapman.
Star Blue: Charlie Clare. Battled hard for his try as he put in a fearless performance.