Blues are edged out by Jersey

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RFU Championship: Jersey 17 Bedford Blues 3

Bedford flew back empty-handed from Jersey on Saturday evening after lapses at key stages led to defeat in the mud of St Peter.

The Islanders grabbed tries either side of half-time to underpin their victory, with Blues ultimately unable to add anything to the James Pritchard penalty that had given them an early lead.

After a dry week, more than an inch of rain fell in the 30 hours prior to kick-off, turning the game into an attritional affair on a difficult surface, a scenario likely to favour the home club’s large pack.

In fact the Blues’ forwards competed gamely in the tight and won a series of scrum penalties, one of which presented Pritchard with the chance to slot over a kick from 25 metres.

Jersey were looking to use their potent rolling maul as a scoring weapon, but couldn’t execute as a result of handling errors and good defensive work by Bedford, for whom skipper Nick Fenton-Wells, number 8 Joe Vandermolen and lock Mike Howard put in notable shifts.

Blues did have chances to go further ahead, including a Steffan Jones hack-and-chase that almost upset the scrambling home defence, and a powerful run by Harry Wells that foundered for lack of support.

As the first half entered its final phase, Blues were still clinging to their three-point lead, but then Jersey upped the ante, first with some powerful forward drives and then working the ball wide,

Centre Drew Locke jinked past an attempted tackle and crossed for the try, with Aaron Penberthy converting from the touchline.

The second half started badly for the visitors when scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal marred an otherwise lively and efficient display by dropping the kick-off. Jersey were able to apply immediate pressure from the resultant scrum, and then lay siege to the try-line via a penalty and an attacking

lineout.

The Blues defence soaked up the pressure until Pierce Phillips burrowed his way over for the game’s second try.

After turning a narrow deficit into an 11-point lead within a few minutes, Jersey were able to control the majority of the second half, which became a dour contest as the predictable wave of 14 replacements took the field in the final half-hour.

Penberthy provided the only other score of the match with an assured 40-metre penalty effort with 13 minutes remaining.

The Blues never stopped battling to get back into the game, with the chance of a losing bonus point remaining until the end. Replacement Jake Sharp even tried the unlikely route of a cross-kick to Pritchard from inside their own 22, but like many of his side’s efforts it came to nothing.

Jersey: Sam Lockwood (Ignacio Lancuba 61), Martin Garcia-Veiga (Joe Buckle 58), Harry Williams (Danny Herriott 72), Nick Campbell, Pierce Phillips, Alex Rae (C) (Mick Noone 53), Ryan Hodson, PK Kaho (Gary Graham 76); Samisoni Fisilau (Ryan Glynn 78), Lewis Robling (Jonny Bentley 69), Fautua Otto, Mark McCrea, Drew Locke, Mark Foster, Aaron Penberthy.

T: Locke, Phillips. C: Penberthy 2. P: Penberthy.

Bedford: Billy Moss (Tom Williams 64), TJ Harris (Charlie Clare 48), Phil Boulton (James Currie 48), Mike Howard, Harry Wells (Ben Gulliver 50), Josh Buggea (Paul Tupai 62), Nick Fenton-Wells (c), Joe Vandermolen; Darryl Veenendaal (Pete White 62), Steffan Jones (Jake Sharp 62), James Pritchard, Henry Staff, Michael Le Bourgeois, Pat Tapley, Baden Kerr.

P: Pritchard.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys.

Touch Judges: Claire Daniels, Chris Sharp.

Attendance: 1,848.

Star Blue: Baden Kerr. Reassuring defensive display mixed with attacking threat.