British & Irish Cup, Pool Two: Bedford Blues 64 Bedwas 0
Bedford Blues concluded the pool stage of the British & Irish Cup with an emphatic 64-0 win against Bedwas on Friday night, writes Michael Hann.
Having already secured their passage into the knockout stage, the Blues went into the game knowing a win would set up a home quarter-final against Llanelli.
And they set about doing that with a dominant first half performance in which they scored five tries. A penalty try got things under way, before Mark Kohler scored twice, while Darren Fearn and Darryl Veenendaal also got on the scoresheet.
The home side continued to bully their opponents after the break, scoring another five tries, with Kohler completing his hat-trick.
The Blues made nine changes to the side that lost to Nottingham last weekend. Fearn, Chris Locke and Dan Seal all started in the front-row, while there were also starts for the likes of Tom Armes, Don Barrell and Kohler.
Playing up the slope in the first half, it was Bedford who did the early pressing and Mike Howard looked to have scored when he burst through the visitors’ backline, only to be pulled back for a double movement.
The Blues continued to enjoy much of the possession and the pressure told as Deri Mattravers saw yellow for the visitors.
With a man advantage Bedford then punished the Welsh side as a scrum five metres from the Bedwas line proved too powerful for the visitors and a penalty try was awarded.
Pritchard converted and the Blues didn’t have to wait long for their second. James Stephenson burst up field superbly, leaving the Bedwas defence out of shape. The ball was then worked out wide to Kohler who dived over the whitewash.
Bedwas continued to struggle with Bedford’s pace and power and, after some good work from the Blues pack, Kohler received the ball on the wing and scored a similar try to his first.
With just over half an hour on the clock the Blues had their fourth try as prop Fearn bundled the ball over after more heavy pressure.
The visitors’ evening was then made worse when they were reduced to 14 men for a second time, with Tom Rowlands sent to the stands.
From the resulting penalty scrum-half Veenendaal spotted a gap in the Bedwas backline and dived under the posts for another try.
Pritchard converted as the Blues went into the interval with an emphatic 31-0 lead.
Bedford continued to enjoy most of the possession at the start of the second period, however the Bedwas defence seemed to be putting up more resistance.
Nevertheless, their defiance didn’t last long as replacement Joe Vandermolen dotted down after some patient build-up play, Pritchard adding the extras.
The floodgates had once again opened and Mark Atkinson split the Bedwas defence in half with a good break, before the ball eventually found its way to Stephenson to score.
Another break followed shortly after and this time it was Pritchard who darted through the heart of the visitors’ defence.
The Blues skipper then combined with Kohler who completed his hat-trick with the simplest of finishes.
Jake Sharp, now on kicking duty converted, and Bedford were 50 points in front.
As the game wore on the Welsh side looked dejected and they conceded yet another try when a scrum on their five-metre line was turned over, enabling Sharp to score.
The fly-half dusted himself off to convert and there was still time for Vandermolen to grab a second of the evening after some smart offloads.
Sharp once was again on target and, as the game came to a close, the Blues waltzed into the next round of the competition.
Blues: Darren Fearn (Ricky Reeves 72), Chris Locke (Neil Cochrane 72), Dan Seal (Ben Cooper 51), Mike Howard, Ben Gulliver, Gregor Gillanders (Joe Vandermolen 51),Tom Armes, Don Barrell (Darren Fox 72), Darryl Veenendaal (Ian Vass 67), Jake Sharp, Mark Kohler, Mark Atkinson, Ollie Dodge (Brendan Burke 61), James Stephenson, James Pritchard (C). T: Penalty Try, Kohler 3, Fearn, Veenendaal, Vandermolen 2, Stephenson, Sharp. C: Pritchard 4, Sharp 3.
Bedwas: Aaron Coundley (Ian George 49), Ben Roberts (Rhys Hutcherson 47), Mathew Petit (Mathew Phelps 56), Chris Bundy, James Thomas, Simon Grainger (C), Thomas Organ (Aaron Harris 47), Deri Mattravers, Tom Rowlands (Rob Carter 64), Lewis Robling, Lewis Hudd, Scott Williams, Mathew John, Rory Budina, Mathew Minty (Josh Davies 56).
Replacements not used: Phil Rees.
Referee: Darren Gamage.
Touch Judges: Nick Cockburn and Simon McConnell.
Star Blue: Mark Kohler. The Blues winger has enjoyed this competition so far and he ran in another three tries in an impressive performance.