RFU Championship: Worcester Warriors 42 Bedford 12
A hat-trick from Mat Gilbert helped Worcester Warriors to a 42-12 victory over Bedford Blues at Sixways on Friday night.
Worcester, who have now won their previous nine matches, never looked in danger of losing to a Bedford side that were resilient in defeat.
Tries from Joe Vandermolen and Dean Adamson weren’t enough for a Bedford side who despite the scoreline, matched their professional opponents throughout, but were unable to stop a Worcester attacking juggernaut that was relentless in finding points.
The defeat is Bedford’s third in a row, but they know their season won’t be defined by this loss at promotion chasing Worcester, it will be against the clubs in and around them in Greene King IPA Championship table.
The Blues managed to get off to the worst possible start, as they conceded two tries in the opening 12 minutes.
Ryan Lamb, who was making his first appearance for Worcester for six months, was looking to kick his side into the corner and it was a cross-field kick that led to the hosts’ first try after four minutes.
Ben Howard was waiting on the left wing for Lamb’s kick, as good defence from Pat Tapley and Jim Wigglesworth forced him to have to offload to Tom Biggs, but the winger easily ran in to score in the corner.
The Warriors’ second try was one from the forwards, as a number of penalties allowed the hosts a line-out just five metres out.
The resulting drive was roared on by the majority of the 5,854 in attendance, and they had more to cheer when Mat Gilbert grounded the ball over the line, Lamb converted both conversions and the big screen inside Sixways read 14-0 to Worcester.
Bedford, despite their slow start, showed great character and resilience in the first half to fight their way back into the game and it was they who scored the only other points in the opening half.
A powerful burst in midfield from Tonga international centre Viliami Hakalo allowed good go forward ball for the Blues, and they were clinical from the resulting play.
Darryl Veenendaal spotted a gap round the side of a ruck and cleverly ran straight through it, as a result the Warriors defence scrambled together only to tap tackle him just before the line.
The scrum-half though managed to offload the ball before he hit the deck to Joe Vandermolen, with the back-row forward diving over the line to score an easy try.
The Blues played well in the first half and trailed by just nine points at the break, but like the first period, the visitors started the second half slowly.
With Bedford down to 14 players following a yellow card to Paul Tupai before the break, Worcester capitalised by scoring their third try within a minute of the restart.
A strong break by prop forward Mike Daniels through the midfield meant the home side had more numbers out wide, and an exchange of passes by Ben Howard, Max Stelling and Daniels allowed captain GJ Van Velze the opportunity to dive over and ensure Bedford were chasing a growing lead.
Worcester, who are looking for an instant return to the Premiership this season, were desperate for their bonus point try and it dually arrived on 57 minutes.
Howard, whose pace from full-back was a threat throughout, picked a defence splitting line past the on-rushing Blues midfield, and Warriors’ number 15 passed out wide to Stelling who had the easiest of tasks in sliding into the corner.
Dean Ryan’s side clearly identified the line-out as an area they could dominate Bedford, and their fifth try arrived from a rolling maul.
With an attacking line-out just five metres out, the hosts’ pack proved too strong and nudged their way over the line to allow Gilbert his second score after a line-out drive.
Former England international Lamb was superb throughout in his comeback match, and kicked all five of his conversions to stretch their lead to 35-5, and Bedford knew they were playing for pride now.
The Blues did that though as they battled until the very end, a lovely show and go by Jake Sharp almost allowed Peter White an opportunity to score but, cynically, Howard slapped the pass to the floor and was sent to the bin.
Worcester, as a result, played the last 10 minutes with just 14 men, but they managed to score their sixth try after 77 minutes.
Warriors were camped on the Bedford line and it looked like the Blues’ defence would stand strong after preventing phase after phase of attacks, but eventually the hosts scored as Gilbert crossed for his hat-trick try.
The back-rower bundled his way over from close range to score under the posts and ensure the hosts passed the 40 points mark.
Bedford kept playing though, and they scored their second try with the last play of the match. Ollie Dodge punctured his way through the defence before passing to Dean Adamson to slide over in the corner and keep up his good try scoring form for the Bedfordshire side in his first season for the club.
However Adamson’s try was no more than a consolation and Mike Rayer’s side will hope to bounce back when they host Yorkshire Carnegie at Goldington Road on Friday night, in what will be their first home match in four weeks.
Worcester Warriors: Val Rapava Ruskin (Ben Sowrey 57), Dan George (Ryan Bower 57), Mike Daniels (Joe Rees 65), Mike Williams, Darren O’Shea, Matt Cox, Mat Gilbert, GJ Van Velze (c), Charlie Mulchrone (Jonny Arr 48), Ryan Lamb (Ignacio Mieres 62), Tom Biggs, Ryan Mills (Andy Symons 62), Max Stelling, Sam Smith, Ben Howard.
Replacement not used: James Percival.
T: Mat Gilbert x3, Tom Biggs, GJ Van Velze, Max Stelling C: Ryan Lamb x5, Ignacio Mieres
Bedford Blues: Camilo Parilli-Ocampo (Charlie Clare 52), Jared Saunders (Tom Williams 52), Phil Boulton, Mike Howard (Ben Gulliver 62), Paul Tupai, Justin Blanchet, Josh Buggea (Nick Fenton-Wells 52), Joe Vandermolen; Darryl Veenendaal (Peter White 68), Jake Sharp, Dean Adamson, Viliami Hakalo, Ollie Dodge, Pat Tapley (Darrell Dyer 68), Jim Wigglesworth (Steffan Jones 46).
T: Joe Vandermolen, Dean Adamson C: Jake Sharp.
Referee: Steve Lee.
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady and Jonathan Healy.