British & Irish Cup, Pool Two: Bedwas 23 Bedford Blues 48
Bedford Blues got their British & Irish Cup campaign off to the perfect start with an impressive 48-23 win over Bedwas in Pool Two on Saturday afternoon, writes Michael Hann.
In the heart of the welsh valleys Bedford produced an excellent first half display and scored four tries thanks to scores from Ollie Dodge, Neil Cochrane and two from Mark Kohler.
The home side did pull one back but the Blues led 24-11 at the break.
Bedford were equally dominant in the second period and ran in another four tries, including two from winger James Stephenson, to give themselves the points.
The Blues made eight changes to the side that beat Plymouth last weekend. Ben Cooper, Darren Fox and Tom Armes started up front, while Ben Ransom, Dodge, Jake Sharp and Darryl Veenendaal came into the back line. Winger Kohler was also given his first start of the season.
Bedwas started the match in great fashion and were ahead 20 seconds in when Dodge failed to release the ball in the tackle - giving the home side a penalty that Richard Powell converted.
The Welsh side then missed a golden opportunity to get the game’s first try when Sharp’s grubber kick was intercepted by Phil Rees who raced towards the line only to misplace a pass at a crucial moment.
The Blues punished them moments later when a good spell of pressure saw Dodge cut through the Bedwas defence and fly over the whitewash. Sharp converted and Bedford were in front.
The visitors were continuing to enjoy most of the possession and they were rewarded when hooker Cochrane scored their second of the match.
The Blues won a lineout on the Bedwas five-metre line and a strong maul proved too much for the home side’s defence as Cochrane touched down.
However, Bedwas responded when full-back Stuart Thomas broke down the wing and played in the supporting Rory Budina who went over.
It was now Bedwas that were applying the pressure and they had a chance to reduce the deficit when they won a penalty 50 metres out – but it proved too far for kicker Powell.
Kohler, starting in his first match of the season, then extended the Blues’ lead as he got himself on the scoresheet.
Scrum-half Veenendaal sprayed a brilliant pass out wide to Kohler who beat his man and scored. And Sharp had the inside of the post to thank as his conversion brushed the woodwork on its way over.
Bedwas responded straight from the restart as the Blues conceded a penalty, giving Powell an easy chance to add three points.
But with the first half drawing to a close the Blues got their fourth try as Cooper broke for the line, before passing to Kohler who got his second of the match. Sharp missed the conversion but Bedford were 24-11 up at the interval.
Bedford picked up from where they left off at the start of the second half when Stephenson got his first try of the match.
With Bedwas lock Chris Bundy in the sin-bin the Blues won a scrum 20 metres out. The ball was switched wide to Stephenson and there was no stopping the tricky winger as he went over.
And the Blues winger got his second just minutes later when he scored a magnificent solo effort.
Ransom’s break started the move and he off-loaded to Stephenson who refused to be brought down on his way to the line as the Bedwas defence threw tackles his way.
Cochrane then scored his second of the match in a similar move to his first. The Blues maul was too strong for the Bedwas defence and the Bedford hooker bundled the ball over the line.
Bedwas did pull a try back when Ian Smerdon raced away from the Blues’ defence before passing to Budina who showed his lightning pace to put the ball under the posts.
The home side were trying their best to salvage something from the match and they grabbed their third try of the match when Stuart Thomas capped off a well-worked passing move.
But any hope of a comeback was extinguished when replacement Blues hooker Dan Seal capitalised on another strong driving maul from a lineout to score.
Sharp converted with the final kick as Bedford sealed an emphatic win.
Bedwas: Daniel Preece (Ian George 48), Elliott Dee (Rhys Hutcherson 48), Matthew Pettit, Phil Rees, Chris Bundy, Tom Organ, James Benjamin, Derri Mattravers (C) (Sam Feehan 18), Tom Rowlands (Joshua Davies 58), Richard Powell (Ethan Davies 58), Ryan Owen, Ross Wardle, Iain Smerdon, Rory Budina, Stuart Thomas. Replacements not used: James Thomas, Matthew John. T: Budina 2, Thomas. C: Davies. P: Powell 2.
Blues: Darren Fearn (Phil Boulton 78), Neil Cochrane (Dan Seal 65), Ben Cooper, Mike Howard (Paul Tupai 65), Alex Rae (C), Gregor Gillanders, Darren Fox, Tom Armes (Joe Vandermolen 38), Darryl Veenendaal (Ali Price 62), Jake Sharp, Mark Kohler, Henry Staff, Ollie Dodge, James Stephenson (Brendan Burke 52), Ben Ransom (Ian Vass 56). T: Dodge, Cochrane 2, Kohler 2, Stephenson 2, Seal. C: Sharp 4.
Referee: Sean Gallagher.
Touch Judges: David Jones and Steve Vaudin.
Star Blue: Mark Kohler. Starting in his first match of the season the Blues winger was a constant threat throughout and scored two tries.