A superb team effort secured a bonus point victory for Bedford Blues as they beat Plymouth Albion 31-22 at Brickfields on Saturday.
Tries from Paul Tupai, Pat Tapley and two from Dean Adamson secured the Blues’ first win of the Greene King Championship, a victory they fully deserved.
Seventeen points from the boot of Plymouth Albion fly-half Lawrence Rayner wasn’t enough for a side who are yet to collect a point in the league after four matches.
For the Blues, the match was won by a forward pack that dominated the set-piece and a backline that looked like it could score from all over the park.
The visitors started with great intent, and immediately won possession from their own kick-off and moved the ball through the hands with pace and purpose.
Such was their strong start, it only took four minutes for Bedford to take the lead, that they held for the majority of the match.
The forwards stole a Plymouth line-out inside Albion’s half, and with the opposition defence unorganised and scattered, the Blues’ backline struck.
Jake Sharp spotted a gaping hole in Plymouth’s midfield and ran straight through it unopposed, with only the full back to beat, Sharp made a simple 10 yard pass to his left where Dean Adamson was on hand to run under the posts.
Former Plymouth player James Pritchard converted and Bedford carried on this week the way they finished last, by scoring tries and dominating proceedings.
However, their lead only lasted two minutes as Plymouth scored what would prove to be their only try of the match.
With a penalty being awarded to the hosts within a comfortable kicking range for the in-form Rayner, many thought they would go for the three points.
Captain Iain Grieve had other ideas though as he ordered a kick for the corner and a chance to put the Bedford pack under pressure.
The line-out was successful for the hosts and the rolling maul followed, the impressive push was too much to handle so close to the Bedford line and Patrick Neale had the easiest job in falling over the line with the ball in his hands.
Rayner converted from the left touchline and it looked like there could be plenty of tries on show.
Albion’s pack looked to match their opponents in the opening exchanges, as they had a lengthy period inside the Blues’ half with the ball.
Despite their field position, they were unable to convert a number of rolling mauls into a second try and convert their pressure into points.
Bedford’s defence stood strong as they forced Plymouth into kicking for the posts rather than the corner as they had done previously, with a penalty arriving on 23 minutes after a high tackle in midfield, Plymouth led 10-7.
That was as good as it got for Plymouth’s forwards as from then on Bedford’s pack started to run proceedings.
It only took two minutes for Bedford to score a penalty of their own, and this was won by the forwards.
Front rower Billy Moss pounced on a loose ball straight from kick-off, the following phase forced Plymouth’s midfield into an offside position and allow Pritchard a kick from 40 metres out.
The Canadian’s kick sailed through the posts and the score was all square.
It was Bedford’s turn to have a line-out five metres out, and unlike their hosts, they turned that pressure into points.
Plymouth conceded penalty after penalty on their line and forced referee Ian Tempest into sending scrum-half Josh Davis to the sin-bin for deliberately killing the ball on his line.
The line-out followed and Bedford’s push was unstoppable so close to the line, allowing Paul Tupai to ground the ball and ensure the visitors were deservedly seven points ahead at the break.
Rayner, who was 100% with his kicks at Rotherham last week, continued that good form this week by kicking all of his six efforts.
Two quick penalties in the second half from the fly-half reduced their deficit to just a point, but Mike Rayer’s side responded immediately, just like they had in the first half.
With the third quarter full of broken field play, Bedford’s backline became more involved through their dangerous running.
In the 48th minute, Pritchard spotted space on the Blues’ right by beating an on-rushing defender with a lovely step.
Pat Tapley was on his wing and received the ball from the Canadian, the winger quickly spotted space in the corner and did a lovely grubber kick behind the defence.
Pritchard was quickest to the ball but was stopped before the line by Plymouth’s scramble defence.
Yet with the defence all at sea, Blues had an easy overlap on the left wing and the ball was shipped through the hands to leave the left winger Adamson the easiest score in the corner.
That was Adamson’s second of the match and his fourth for Bedford in just his second appearance for the club. Anything Rayner could do, Pritchard could do as well with his 100% place kicking performance, and this effort from the left touchline stretched the visitors’ lead to eight points.
Plymouth attempted to build up a head of steam in getting back into the match, but never looked close to doing that in open play against a Bedford defence that was on top.
Rayner’s boot punished any error that Bedford did commit, which was very rare, as he sent the score to 24-22 with two more penalties from long distance.
With just five minutes left when the teams were separated by just two points, the home support began to believe a comeback was on the cards.
However Bedford’s pack continued to dominate the set-piece by forcing a number of penalties in the scrum just five metres away.
Knowing that they needed one more score for the bonus point try, Captain Nick Fenton-Wells turned the screw on his opponents as their pack began to crumble under pressure.
That fourth score did arrive in the last play of the match through Tapley, as the ball was moved away from the scrum and the winger scooted over in the corner to ensure the Blues returned to Bedfordshire with all five points.
Bedford thoroughly deserved their victory, and will welcome Jersey to Goldington Road next Saturday after two very impressive away performances.
Plymouth Albion: Tom Fidler (Tom Harrison 47), Edward Stagg (Tom Cowan-Dickie 48), Andy Tiedemann (Tom Heard 68), Neale Patrick (Alister Bone 69), Brett Beukeboom, Eoghan Grace (Tom Jubb 16), Sam Simmonds, Iain Grieve (c); Josh Davies (Ruairi Cushion 59), Lawrence Rayner, Lewis Warner, Ben Woods, Toby Howley-Berridge, Jack Arnott (Jake Henry 59), Marc Koteczky.
T: Neale Patrick C: Lawrence Rayner P: Lawrence Rayner x5
Bedford Blues: Billy Moss, Jared Saunders (Charlie Clare 43), Phil Boulton (James Currie 40), Mike Howard, Eoin Sheriff, Paul Tupai, Josh Buggea (Hayden Thompson-Stringer 69), Nick Fenton-
Wells (c); Peter White (Darryl Veenendaal 46), Jake Sharp (Steffan Jones 64), Dean Adamson (Jim Wigglesworth 69), Ollie Dodge, Henry Staff, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard.
Replacement not used: Camilo Parilli-Ocampo.
T: Dean Adamson x2, Paul Tupai, Pat Tapley C: James Pritchard x4 P: James Pritchard.
Referee: Ian Tempest.
Assistant Referees: Philip Waters and Paul Dix.
Star Blue: Billy Moss – Played the whole 80 minutes and his work in the front row provided a real platform for the victory.