Bedford Blues downed Rotherham Titans with a hard-earned 22-16 victory at Goldington Road on Boxing Day, writes Michael Hann.
As over 4,000 Blues fans braved the torrential rain it was the Titans who took an early lead thanks to two penalties from Garry Law.
Bedford responded as James Pritchard kicked two of his own, but a third penalty from the away side gave them a 9-6 lead at the break. The Blues hit back at the start of the second period as Jake Sharp’s drop-goal levelled the scores before James Stephenson scored a converted try.
Two Pritchard penalties followed and, despite a late Peter Homan try, it was too little too late as the Blues moved back into second in the Championship.
The Blues made a number of changes to the side that demolished Neath last time out. Darren Fearn, Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton all returned to the front-row.
As the rain crashed down on the Goldington Road pitch, Rotherham got the game’s first points thanks to a Law penalty.
The visitors kept the early pressure up and Law nailed a second penalty 40 metres out after the Blues failed to bind in the scrum.
However, Bedford responded as Pritchard converted a penalty after gaining territory up the slope.
The game was now swinging in the Blues’ favour and a lineout 20 metres out saw Bedford drive the Titans back. As the visitors struggled to contain the Blues pack, full-back Law saw yellow for diving in at the side, conceding a penalty for his troubles. Pritchard levelled the scores with his kick, but the visitors were not deterred and James McKinney, now on kicking duty, scored his side’s third penalty of the afternoon.
With half time approaching it was Bedford who came close to scoring the game’s first try. Another powerful maul put the Titans on the backfoot and hooker Cochrane burst through, only to be held up in the goal area by Charlie Mulchrone.
The play went back for a scrum and after a few phases Bedford won a penalty, but Pritchard’s kick went wide and the Blues trailed 9-6 at the break.
As the rain came down harder at the start of the second half Bedford again levelled the scores after some patient build-up play enabled Sharp to convert a drop-goal attempt.
The Blues seemed to have worn their opposition down and Pritchard showed incredible vision to pick out Stephenson with a grubber kick and the winger dived on the ball for the game’s first try.
Pritchard converted, but Law could have closed the gap with a penalty, however his kick missed.
It proved costly as Bedford extended their advantage through a third Pritchard penalty from distance and the Blues skipper converted his fourth after Titans replacement Pale Nonu was sin-binned.
That penalty seemed to kick the Titans back into life and a good break upfield saw Homan touch down in the corner. Law converted and the game was back on with five minutes left.
But Bedford were never in trouble again as they made it six wins in a row.
Blues: Darren Fearn (Ricky Reeves 40), Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton (Dan Seal 40), Mike Howard (Gregor Gillanders 76), Ben Gulliver, Alex Rae, Darren Fox, Paul Tupai (Don Barrell 69), Darryl Veenendaal (Luke Baldwin 56), Jake Sharp, Josh Bassett, Mark Atkinson, Brendan Burke, James Stephenson, James Pritchard (C). Replacements not used: Chris Locke, Ian Vass.
Blues scorers: T: Stephenson. C: Pritchard. P: Pritchard 4. DG: Sharp.
Titans scorers: T: Homan. C: Law. P: Law 2, McKinney.
Referee: Darren Gamage.
Touch Judges: Simon Harding and Darryl Chapman.
Star Blue: James Pritchard. The Blues skipper kicked penalties at crucial times and set James Stephenson up with a superb grubber kick.