RFU Championship: Bedford Blues 55 Plymouth Albion 17
Bedford Blues produced their best performance of the season to beat Plymouth 55-17 in a rampant display at Goldington Road this afternoon, writes Michael Hann.
In front of their highest crowd of the season the Blues were a class above their opponents in the first half and scored four tries thanks to James Stephenson, Josh Bassett, James Pritchard and Gregor Gillanders.
Plymouth tried to recover in the second half and scored two tries of their own, but it was to be in vain as the Blues ran in four more tries, giving themselves a memorable bonus-point victory.
Bedford made three changes to the side that overcame Jersey last weekend. Winger James Stephenson returned to the side after recovering from an injury that kept him out of the last two games, while Darren Fearn and Alex Rae also started.
The visitors had the first chance to put points on the board when they won a penalty just inside the Blues half.
Paul Roberts stepped up, but he dragged it wide and the fly-half missed another penalty minutes later.
Albion’s failure to open the scoring proved costly when Stephenson broke the daedlock with the first try of the match.
Picking up from where he left off two weeks ago, the Blues winger received the ball 30 metres out and danced his way through the Albion defence to go over.
Pritchard missed the conversion, but the home side did not have to wait long for their second try of the match.
Bedford won a lineout in the Plymouth half and the ball was recycled to Bassett who burst through the defence to go over.
Pritchard converted and Bedford were already in control of the match.
The Blues looked like scoring with every attack and Pritchard moved his side further in front when he kicked a penalty.
Plymouth did respond when Roberts finally converted a penalty, but the visitors were now 15-3 down.
Bedford’s expansive style of rugby was causing all sorts of problems for Albion and after some heavy pressure Pritchard went over.
The Blues skipper then dusted himself off to add the extras with a difficult kick out wide.
Gregor Gillanders then capped off a scintillating first half performance when he scored the Blues’ fourth try after a wonderful passing move.
Pritchard again added the extra and the Blues went into the break with a 29-3 lead.
Plymouth needed to score early in the second half and they did just that when Sam Hocking got their first try of the match after a good spell of pressure. Roberts converted to reduce the deficit to 29-10.
Albion needed to score again, but they were victims of their own downfall when Jake Sharp intercepted a loose pass and raced clear. He off-loaded to Henry Staff who placed the ball underneath the posts.
Hooker Jonathon Vickers did manage to pull another one back for Plymouth, but when Neil Cochrane capitalised on another poor pass he enabled substitute Ben Ransom to cross.
The visitors’ afternoon was made even worse when Sharp scored a terrific solo effort after racing through the Plymouth backline.
And Pritchard completed the rout when he grabbed his second try of the match as the game drew to a close.
The Blues skipper could not convert, but it didn’t matter as Bedford had triumphed, extending their unbeaten run against Plymouth to nine games in the process.
Blues: Darren Fearn (Ben Cooper 52), Neil Cochrane (Dan Seal 72), Phil Boulton, Mike Howard (Tom Armes 57), Alex Rae, Gregor Gillanders, Sacha Harding (Darren Fox 66), Paul Tupai, Luke Baldwin (Darryl Veenendaal 72), Mark Atkinson (Jake Sharp 52), Josh Bassett, Henry Staff, Brendan Burke (Ben Ransom 59), James Stephenson, James Pritchard (C). T: Stephenson, Bassett, Pritchard 2, Gillanders, Staff, Ransom, Sharp. C: Pritchard 6. P: Prichard.
Abion: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Jack Andrew 80), Jonathon Vickers (James Salter 72), Lloyd Fairbrother (David Morton 52), Brett Beukeboom, Ien Ascroft-Leigh (Aaron Carpenter 52), Wayne Sprangle (Rupeni Nasiga 52), Sam Hocking, Sean-Michael Stephen (C), Ruairi Cushion (Rhodri McAtee 52), (Keni Fisilau 62), Paul Roberts, Lewis Warner, Bevon Armitage, Toby Howley-Berridge, Paul Bailey, Henry Slade. T: Hocking, Vickers. C: Roberts 2. P: Roberts.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.
Touch Judges: Rowan Kitt, Darryl Chapman.
Star Blue: Henry Staff. Blues centre worked tirelessly throughout the match and deservedly got himself a try.