Bedford Blues were humbled 42-15 by a Rotherham side who ran in eight tries at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.
In their first Championship home match of the season, the Blues weren’t able to collect a win they so desperately wanted in front of over 2,000 fans, instead facing an emphatic defeat by a side that beat them four times in the last campaign.
Rotherham started the match with a real intent for attacking rugby, and the visitors looked to move the ball wide early on.
The Blues’ defence started strong, and forced the visitors into conceding early penalties when well placed inside the hosts’ half.
Bedford’s defence looked to rush up off of their line and get in the face of their opponents, and as a result an interception looked possible.
Pat Tapley looked to have done just that, but was brought back after being penalised for standing in an offside position.
However the team from Yorkshire turned their dominance into points on the ninth minute when Rotherham kicked for the corner.
The following rolling maul was held up brilliantly by the Blues’ pack, only for the ball to be flung out to the left wing. Titans’ number 13 Jack Roberts stepped by the onrushing Michael Le Bourgeois, and ran in to score in the left corner.
Bedford showed great character throughout, and scored their first points of the season at Goldington Road when debutant Steffan Jones scored a penalty from 40 yards out, with his effort sailing straight through the uprights.
However, the match was about to burst into a scoring frenzy as the visitors added three tries in the space of 12 minutes.
Rotherham’s forwards won a Bedford line out on the half way line, and moved the ball wide early to find Jamie Broadley in space down the right.
The winger looked to pass inside but good covering defence from Ollie Dodge meant the ball was on the floor, however with no one playing full-back for the Blues following the turnover, Broadley easily kicked it into the goal area and ground the ball to give the Titans a 10-3 lead after 20 minutes.
Blues’ defence last week was strong, however today individual defensive errors cost the side and Rotherham scored their third with minimal fuss.
A simple overlap on the left wing of three to one arrived after weak tackling in the midfield allowed Titans players to bounce off their opponents.
Chris Harris burst through a gap and passed out wide to Wilson, who returned the favour with a simple pass when the two attackers were bearing down on a lonely Pritchard, and Harris was able to touchdown.
Rotherham, who lost to London Scottish in their opening match, scored their bonus try after just 32 minutes.
Lloyd Hayes, who was making his debut for the Titans, made a strong run from full back, finding plenty of space in the Bedford defence.
Inside centre Harris made a lung bursting run that was destined for the left corner, but great defence from Pritchard prevented the player from scoring himself, but winger Wilson was on his shoulder to easily collect an offload and dive over for his first of three scores.
Despite their problems on the scoreline, Bedford were more than matching their opponents in the first half, especially in territory and attacking threat.
Blues’ first try finally arrived just before half time in what was their first try at Goldington Road this season.
A strong run from winger Pat Tapley meant the hosts were camped on the visitors try line. Following a five metre scrum after Nick Fenton Wells was held up, scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal spun his way past the Rotherham defence to score under the posts.
Pritchard’s conversion was successful, and despite trailing on the try scoring stakes by four tries to one, Bedford were only trailing by ten points and were still very much in this fixture.
In saying that, Rotherham started the second half straight on the front foot again, forcing a five metre line-out after a Bedford player was penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
Rotherham’s rolling maul was strong, and hooker Tom Cruse joined at the back to collect the ball and fall over the try line ease.
Bedford, now trailing by 15 points, dominated affairs for the next 20 minutes.
On top on both the territory and possession stats, the hosts’ looked to close the deficit on the scoreboard frequently, but ultimately faced a resilient and well drilled Rotherham defence.
Two strong breaks from substitute Jake Sharp punctured through the opponents’ line, but the last ball just evaded a side that weren’t deserving of the deficit on the scoreboard.
With chances passing Bedford by, the visited sensed tiredness and desperation in the home ranks and managed to score three more tries in the last 10 minutes.
Rotherham’s Curtis Wilson scored two tries in a matter of minutes to complete his hat-trick.
The first arrived as the winger picked a great angle after collecting an inside ball from substitute Tom Barrett, and just about managed to ground the ball on the line with an outstretched right arm.
His third and Rotherham’s seventh was a lot easier. Harris exploited a gap on the right of Bedford’s defence, and made a basketball style offload to Wilson, allowing the pacey winger to sprint into the corner and ensure the match was going to be won by Rotherham.
In a match full of attacking rugby, there was still time for two more tries.
Bedford’s all-time leading scorer Pritchard picked a great angle and managed to sprint half the length of the pitch to give the Blues’ faithful something to cheer at a sunny Goldington Road.
Yet Rotherham made sure they scored the last points of the match in the last play of the game.
Hooker Cruse scoring his second after collecting the loose ball and sprinting over the whitewash to score his side’s eighth try.
Tom Barrett then converted the try in a match where Rotherham squandered 17 points with their poor place kicking, but that stat didn’t matter as Rotherham secured a 42-15 victory.
Bedford are now on the road for two weeks, still looking for their first win of the season, with Mike Rayer’s side travelling to London Scottish next Saturday.
Bedford: Tom Williams (Billy Moss 49), Charlie Clare (Jared Saunders 49), James Currie (Phil Boulton 49), Mike Howard (Ben Gulliver 49), Paul Tupai, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Josh Buggea (Harry Wells 49), Nick Fenton-Wells (c); Darryl Veenendaal (Pete White 62), Steffan Jones, Henry Staff, Ollie Dodge (Jake Sharp 55), Mike Le Bourgeois, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard.
T: Darryl Veenendaal, James Pritchard C: James Pritchard P: Steffan Jones
Rotherham: Marshall Gadd (Toby Williams 47), Tom Cruse, Mark Tampin (Lewis Thiede 47), Perry Parker (Ben Morris 64), Tom Holmes (c), Ali Birch (Ryan William 51), Jack Preece, Alex Ridder; Dan White (Andy Davies 49), James McKinney (Tom Barrett 62), Curtis Wilson, Chris Harris, Jack Roberts (Jordan Davies 32), Jamie Broadley, Lloyd Hayes.
T: Curtis Wilson x3, Tom Cruse x2, Jamie Broadley, Jack Roberts, Chris Harris, C: Tom Barrett
Referee: Steve Lee
Assistant Referees: Lionel Spooner and Darryl Chapman
Star Blue: Nick Fenton Wells – Captain gave it his all and put in some huge hits for his side.