Bedford Academy lost to a strong Northampton Saints Academy side 34-22 in a cracking game of rugby.
Northampton took the lead after 15 minutes when, after two quick rucks, the ball was moved quickly by Harry Mallinder and Rory Hutchinson, to put Adam Shaw in for a score in the left corner.
Saints stretched their lead five minutes later when a lineout on the left was driven, before the ball was moved to the right and Mallinder and Hutchinson again combined to put Shaw in for a try. Mallinder converted and Saints were 12-0 ahead.
The Blues hit back straight from the kick-off. Centre Aaron Martin made good ground, the ruck was won and prop Hayden King crashed over for the Blues’ first score. Fly-half Cameron Gregory-Ring converted to make the score 12-7.
Bedford increased their tempo and began to put Saints under some pressure.
This was rewarded with a good try from winger Luke Hibberd just before half-time when he beat his man with a hand-off on the halfway line before beating the cover and going around the full-back to make the score 12-12.
Saints hit back straight from the kick off, however, when they won a scrum on the Blues’ 22 for Mallinder to give a one handed pass to Hutchinson to score and give his side a 17-12 half-time lead.
Saints opened the scoring in the second half with a driven lineout and a try from scrum-half Rob Smith to go 22-12 ahead.
Five minutes later, Blues number 8 Felix Maddison slipped a ball to flanker Harry Agnew to break through to score under the posts; Gregory-Ring converted to make it 22-19, before he levelled the scores 10 minutes later with a penalty.
Saints moved ahead once again when Shaw chipped ahead to claim his hat-trick and put Saints ahead 29-22.
Saints closed off the game with a try from Freddie McKibbon, converted by fly-half James Grayson, to make the final score 34-22 to Saints.
Blues Academy Director Denis Ormesher said: “This was cracking game of rugby, with some strong play from both sides.
“Saints were a real handful and I thought Mallinder and Hutchinson were outstanding in the centre.”
He added: “Although Saints just deserved the win, I was delighted with the Bedford boys’ performance. This was a close game and they matched them all the way.
Our work in the contact area, and in defence, were both very good, and with a bit more of a clinical finish in attack the result could have been very different.
Playing against the RFU-funded academies is a great way for our boys to measure their development. They did themselves, and the Blues, proud today.”