Bedford Blues were outclassed by Premiership runners-up Saracens at Goldington Road on Friday night as the visitors ran out 3-47 victors.
Sarries scored seven tries in what was both teams’ last pre-season match before the start of the season next week.
Blues kicked off and immediately won a penalty after Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves pulled down a line-out; however fly-half Jake Sharp missed the kick to the left of the post.
Saracens looked to use width early, and with good passing from Alex Goode; David Strettle looked to have nearly broke through but a last ditch tackle from Nathan Earle, who is dual-registered with the visitors, forced him into touch.
The Premiership giants looked to play the ball through the hands from the beginning, and Strettle looked dangerous on the left wing every time the ball was moved out wide.
Sarries were awarded a penalty on the 22 metre line after Mike Howard entered the ruck from the side and Charlie Hodgson chose to kick for the corner instead of the three points.
From the resulting line-out, a powerful rolling maul was brought down on the line illegally by the Bedford pack and the referee awarded Saracens a penalty try.
Moments later, a powerful scrum in midfield freed up space outside and it looked like former Blues centre Duncan Taylor would score, but for a knock on just in front of the line.
Bedford enjoyed their first meaningful attack in the 14th minute with scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal the catalyst with a strong run. A penalty soon followed after Saracens were offside and James Pritchard calmly slotted over in front of the posts.
The counter rucking from the visitors proved to be a potent weapon, and a cross field kick from Ben Spencer almost found Will Fraser all alone out wide, but the ball just evaded the back row forward into touch.
The visitors continued to dominate territory, and another line-out five metres out was won. A brilliant angled run from Fraser forced himself through the Blues’ defence and to score his sides second try, extending their lead to 3-14.
The hosts were far from being outplayed though, and a good up and under from Jake Sharp forced Andy Goode to knock on. With Earle looking favourite to pounce on the loose ball, Strettle cynically kicked the ball into touch from an offside position, and as a result was given a yellow card.
Just before half-time, Saracens looked to score their third but new Bedford captain Nick Fenton-Wells used hands in the ruck and joined Strettle in the sin-bin. Despite that, Sarries were unable to capitalise and couldn’t score their third try before the half time interval.
Saracens changed the whole of the forward pack at half time, and their fresh legs dominated the opening scrum, winning a penalty against the head in midfield. The visitors decided to kick to the corner again, and their forwards dominated the line-out, allowing Matt Hankin to fall over the try line to score.
It didn’t take long for Sarries to score again, as Tim Streather ran a superb angle to scythe through the Bedford midfield and run under the posts with considerable ease.
Another set-piece move from Saracens’ midfield carved open the Bedford defence again, however this time Strettle decided to do a grubber kick through instead of finding Ashton outside him with a simple pass.
Sarries started the second half camped inside Bedford’s 22, and another powerful push from their pack resulted in Bedford collapsing the scrum from close range, and thus the referee had no other option to award the European giants their second penalty try of the match.
Unlike the previous three scores in the second half, their fourth try after the interval was an individual score. Substitute Tom Whiteley found space and side stepped three on-rushing defenders to burrow his way over in the corner. Nils Mordt converted nonchalantly from a difficult angle to give Saracens a 3-40 lead.
As the match wore on, both teams’ physicality began to show, but the referee punished Bedford substitute Steve Ellis for tackling without rapping his arms around the opponent.
Streather looked dangerous when he come on and picked another defence splitting run on 74 minutes that the 14 men of Bedford couldn’t stop, allowing the centre to stroll under the posts and score Saracens’ seventh try.
Both teams will take positives from the match and will look forward to starting their respective league campaigns next weekend.
Bedford: Tom Williams (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 47), Charlie Clare (Jared Saunders 47), James Currie (Phil Boulton 47), Mike Howard (Ben Gulliver 56), Paul Tupai, Justin Blanchet (Kennet O’Neil 47), Joe Vandermolen (Josh Buggea 40), Nick Fenton-Wells (c); Darryl Veenendaal (Peter White 60), Jake Sharp (Steffan Jones 56), Ollie Dodge (Steve Ellis 40), Henry Staff, Nathan Earle (Dean Adamson 65), James Pritchard (Pat Tapley 65). T: P: James Pritchard. C:
Saracens: Richard Barrington (Scott Spurling 40), Jamie George (Rhys Gill 40), Kieran Longbottom (Petrus Du Plessis 40, Biyi Alo 71) Alistair Hargreaves (c) (George Kruis 40, Hayden Smith 71), Jim Hamilton (Mouritz Botha 40), Kelly Brown (Jacques Burger 40), Will Fraser (Ernst Joubert 40), Jackson Wray (Hayden Thompson Stringer 40); Ben Spencer (Tom Whiteley 59), Charlie Hodgson (Nils Mordt 40), David Strettle (Jack Wilson 51), Brad Barritt (Tim Streather 17), Duncan Taylor (Nick Tompkins 40), Chris Ashton (Ben Ransom 59), Alex Goode (Mike Ellery 59). T: 2 penalty, Fraser, Hankin, Streather 2, Whiteley P:. C: Hodgson 2, Spencer 3, Mordt.
Referee: Dean Richards. Assistant Referees: Kelvin Stewart and Phil Watters
Star Blue: Paul Tupai – His fitness levels and physicality continue to contradict his age, could be a key figure again for the Blues this season.