Pritchard on form as Blues win thriller

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Briths & Irish Cup: Bedofrd 41 Cornish Pirates 40

James Pritchard scored 21 points as Bedford Blues beat Cornish Pirates 41-40 at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.

In a match that exchanged leads on a number of occasions, it was the hosts who held on to claim victory in what would prove to be both teams’ last fixture in the British and Irish Cup this season.

Needing to claim a bonus point win and hoping results elsewhere went in their favour, the Blues managed to do their job but wins for Munster and Pontypridd meant Mike Rayer’s side were unable to claim one of the three best placed runner-up spots.

Despite being knocked out, Bedford can take plenty of positives away from a hard-fought win over a Cornish Pirates side that had trounced the Blues 65-14 in the Championship just three weeks earlier.

There were plenty of points scored in the match, and that started straight from kick-off as two Kieran Hallett penalties sent the visitors into six point lead inside four minutes.

The Blues were quick to get themselves in on the point scoring act though as the forwards showed their strength.

They won a penalty from a scrum and kicked to the corner, and whilst the five metre line-out was roared on by those inside Goldington Road, the players shoved their way over to allow Paul Tupai the opportunity to ground the ball over the line.

Pritchard converted, and the Blues were in the lead for the first time in the afternoon.

Pirates then scored their first try of the afternoon after 14 minutes. Scrum-half Tom Kessell spun wide of a Cornwall line-out and passed to Tom Riley, with the centre picking a lovely line through the Bedford midfield and sliding under the posts for with minimal fuss.

In a match where the lead exchanged hands eight times, those in attendance inside Goldington Road were treated to some great scores.

Bedford’s next two scores were fitting of that, and sent the Blues into a 21-13 lead after 28 minutes.

With Pirates down to 14 after a yellow for winger Kieran Goss, the Blues spotted space out wide in their opponents’ defence and Pritchard was on hand to slide over in the corner.

Blues’ third score was of outstanding quality, arguably their try of the season so far.

Fly-half Jake Sharp collected his own chip over Cornwall’s rush defence, before finding midfield partner Michael Le Bourgeios with a offload on halfway; the centre then played the overlap superbly and found winger Dean Adamson who sprinted over to score a try that was full of quality.

As Goss returned to action after half an hour, Pritchard continued his form with the boot by scoring a penalty that stretched the hosts’ lead to 11, with Bedford managing to score 17 unanswered points whilst they had the man advantage.

However Pirates managed to score the last points of the half as Hallett, who was also in great form with his boot, converting a penalty from halfway; meaning the half-time score read 24-16 to the home side.

Despite playing up the slope in the second 40, the visitors managed to score the next two scores that sent them into a six point advantage.

Firstly, Riley scored his second try when poor tackling in the hosts’ defence allowed the centre to bundle himself over after a Pirates overlap.

Their next score arrived after 54 minutes via a superb finish by Max Bodilly in the left corner. The winger managed to ground the ball over the line when it looked for certain he would be swept into touch by the covering defence.

Hallett converted from the left touchline, and somehow Bedford looked up at the scoreboard and saw themselves six points behind, despite playing well.

However the all-important bonus point score arrived on the hour as Tupai scored his second of the afternoon of the back of a powerful rolling maul, to send the Blues back in front by just a point.

After 63 minutes, referee Matthew O’Grady evened up the yellow card count when he sent Bedford sub Hayden Thompson-Stringer to the bin after a spear tackle on Tom Kessell.

Yet unlike their hosts, Pirates were unable to convert their man advantage into points as they lost the next 10 minutes on the scoreboard 7-3.

A Hallett penalty was quickly quashed by a Pat Tapley score after a Tupai charge-down, and the Blues were five points ahead going into the last 10 minutes, as Thompson-Stringer returned to the pitch.

Skipper for the day Pritchard then scored a decisive penalty after 73 minutes; a penalty that meant the side from Penzance had to score twice if they were to snatch victory at the death.

They managed to score once through Riley, a score that was his third of the afternoon, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation as both sides bowed out of cup action this year in a match that was full of entertainment.

Bedford may have just missed out on qualifying for the quarter-finals, but they will be back at Goldington Road on Boxing Day when they welcome table-topping to Bristol in what should be another thrilling match.

Bedford: Tom Williams (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 63), TJ Harris (Charlie Clare 46), James Currie (Phil Boulton 46), Harry Wells, Ben Gulliver (Mike Howard 63), Justin Blanchet, Josh Buggea (Hayden Thompson-Stringer 50), Paul Tupai; Darryl Veenendaal, Jake Sharp, Dean Adamson, Viliami Hakalo (Henry Staff 63), Michael Le Bourgeois, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard (c).

Replacement not used: Peter White.

T: Paul Tupai x2, James Pritchard, Dean Adamson, Pat Tapley. C: James Pritchard x5. P: James Pritchard x2.

Cornish Pirates: Jack Andrew (Jamal Ford-Robinson 55), Tom Channon (Dean Brooker 73), Alan Paver (Francisco Deformes 65), Will Carrick-Smith (Joel Conlon 69), Darren Barry, Chris Morgan (c), Joe Atkinson, Matt Bolwell (Laurie McGlone 43); Tom Kessell, Kieran Hallett, Max Bodily, Alex Dancer (Rheon James 73), Tom Riley, Kieran Goss, Laurence May.

Replacement not used: Gavin Cattle.

T: Tom Riley x3, Max Bodilly. C: Kieran Hallett x4. P: Kieran Hallett x4.

Attendance: 2218

Referee: Matthew O’Grady