Briths & Irish Cup: Bedford 15 Doncaster 17
Bedford Blues slipped to a nail-biting 17-15 defeat again Doncaster Titans at Goldington Road under the lights on Friday night.
The visitors, who have now won all four of their pool matches in the competition, held on for the win as the Blues were pushing for a score in the closing minutes.
A penalty try and a Paul Jarvis score was enough for the side from Yorkshire to take home the four points and end Bedford’s hopes of qualification, despite tries from Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Henry Staff for the hosts.
Bedford’s coaching staff selected a couple of debutants in the 22, notably Saracens winger Mike Ellery and Nils Mordt at fly-half, but their inclusions weren’t enough for a side who battled throughout the 80 minutes.
The Blues started the match looking to make amends for their heavy defeat in Cornwall the previous week, and they were playing up the slope in the first period.
It was the visitors who immediately applied the pressure in the opening exchanges, forcing a penalty inside two minutes from a rolling maul, and Dougie Flockhart converted the kick with minimal fuss to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
However the hosts were quick to respond, as they were probing in the visitors 22 straight from the re-start, but a handling error by Camilo Parilli-Ocampo prevented the instant reply.
Despite the missed opportunity, Bedford were once again on the front foot as it was Doncaster’s turn to be penalised in a rolling maul, but another dropped pass in midfield meant the attack was brought to a halt as it was starting to build momentum.
As a result, the Blues were punished for their missed opportunities and it was Doncaster’s turn to have the ball in an attacking area.
A number of attacking line-outs five metres out brought the first yellow card of the game, as captain for the evening Paul Tupai was sent to the bin after the Blues conceded a number of penalties on their line.
As they were under the cosh, the high number of penalties conceded led to the first try of the match through a penalty try.
The Blues’ depleted pack was forced to bring a five metre scrum down, and referee Andrew Small decided to award the score under the sticks.
Those majority of the 2,002 in attendance at Goldington Road thought they scored a try of their own after 24 minutes.
However as the panto season is approaching, villain of the evening Small adjudged Parilli-Ocampo to again knock the ball on, but this time over the try-line, much to the frustration of those in attendance.
Even though that chance went a begging, Blues’ fans had to wait only two minutes for a try to cheer.
Following a good nudge by the Bedford forwards in the rolling maul, number eight for the evening Thompson-Stringer spotted a gap round the side of the Doncaster pack to force his way over.
This time Small did raise his hand and the side form Yorkshire had their lead cut in half, as Tupai returned to the field from his stint in the bin.
The score looked to galvanise Mike Rayer’s side, as the remaining minutes of the half were played in Doncaster’s 22, but they couldn’t turn that into points as they went into half time trailing 10-5.
The Blues almost made a dent into the lead via a James Pritchard penalty immediately into the second half, but the Canadian’s effort from long range just dropped the wrong side of the bar.
Instead, it was Pritchard’s opposing number who scored the next points in the match.
A loose pass in the Doncaster midfield by fly-half Paul Roberts was collected by Paul Jarvis via superb handling; and the number 15 accelerated from the half way line to force his way over in the corner.
Flockhart’s conversion was brilliant from the left touchline, and Titans lead by 12 after 46 minutes.
With the slope in the second half, Substitute Jake Sharp played it brilliantly with a crossfield kick, and as the forward pack turned the line-out over, it looked like they would quickly respond.
Yet ill-discipline from the hosts prevented the Blues from scoring.
They were next to get on the score sheet though as this time a Pritchard penalty was successful, with the three points arriving after the forwards dominated a Doncaster scrum.
After 63 minutes, Titans’ number nine Tomas Palu was sent to the sin-bin after an innocuous challenge on Pat Tapley where he looked to have went into it head first rather than using his arms.
That allowed the Blues to get back into the game, and Henry Staff played a lovely show before showing his pace and score the hosts’ second try of the evening.
Pritchard bagged the conversion via the inside of the right upright, and the Blues trailed by just two with 15 minutes remaining.
Then a barnstorming run by Thompson-Stringer put the Blues on the front foot, but despite plenty of promise, the move didn’t lead to any points at a stage in the match when the next score looked like it would prove crucial.
It was starting to become a bit one sided in the closing stages as Bedford were throwing the ball around, and an offload almost paid off as Tapley nearly found debutant Ellery, but the former England Sevens international was unable to collect the pass.
With Doncaster now back to full strength, the visitors managed to hold on for victory and end any hopes of Bedford qualifying for the quarter finals.
Bedford: Tom Williams (Johnny Harris 48), TJ Harris (Charlie Clare 48), Camilo Parilli-Ocampo (James Currie 40), Harry Wells, Ben Gulliver (Mike Howard 59), Paul Tupai, Justin Blanchet, Hayden Thompson-Stringer; Darryl Veenendaal, Nils Mordt (Peter White 66), Mike Ellery, Viliami Hakalo (Jake Sharp 22), Henry Staff, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard.
Replacement not used: Josh Buggea
T: Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Henry Staff. C: James Pritchard. P: James Pritchard.
Doncaster Titans: Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 70), Ben Hunter (Villiame Veikoso 72), Tiziano Pasquali (Colin Quigley 56), Matt Challinor, Jon Phelan, Will Foden (Phil Eggleshaw 58), Michael Hills, Alex Shaw; Tomasi Palu (Bruno Bravo 72), Paul Roberts, Tyson Lewis, Bevon Armitage, George Catchpole, Dougie Flockhart, Paul Jarvis.
Replacements not used: Latu Makaafi, Piers Francis,
T: Penalty try and Paul Jarvis. C: Dougie Flockhart x2. P: Dougie Flockhart.
Referee: Andrew Small.
Assistant Referees: Darryl Chapman and Michael Cooper.