British & Irish Cup: Cross Keys 10 Bedford 48
A superb Bedford Blues performance saw them emerge 48-10 victors at Cross Keys on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues, who ran in six tries, were comfortable throughout the 80 minutes in South Wales, and returned to Bedfordshire with all five points.
The win, along with Doncaster’s last-gasp victory over Cornish Pirates in pool four, keeps alive the Blues’ hopes of qualifications alive, albeit knowing they must beat the Pirates on Saturday and hope other results go their way to claim one of the best runners up spots.
However, Saturday’s performance was of such quality, that Mike Rayer’s side will be full of confidence that they can beat anyone on their day.
The match started at a frantic pace, as both teams looked to get themselves on the front foot.
Yet as a prequel to how most of the match would pan out, it was the visitors who created the first chance of a try as Pat Tapley’s chip and chase looked like he would go and score, but the ball just beat him in going over the dead ball area.
Cross Keys, who snatched a last-minute 23-22 victory at Goldington Road earlier on in the round-robin format; were first on the scoreboard via a James Leadbeater penalty after 15 minutes.
That was as good as it got for those supporting the Keys inside a sunny Pandy Park though, as the Blues began to steamroll their opponents in every department.
Skipper for the day James Pritchard; ensured the scoreboard was level after 20 minutes via converting a penalty, but their first try was scored just minutes after.
Fly half Jake Sharp began to control the game for the Blues, and his spatial awareness allowed lock forward Harry Wells to go through a gap in the home defence and ground the ball under the sticks for his first try for the club.
Cross Keys, who were constantly falling foul of referee Andrew Brace’s judgement, had a total of three players sin-binned during the match, and Jack Dixon was first to see yellow after 29 minutes for pulling a Bedford shirt when the Welsh side, made up of a majority of Newport players, looked like they were destined to concede a second.
The Greene King IPA Championship side though used their extra man for the remainder of the half well, racking up a total of 17 points before the break.
Firstly, Pritchard’s second penalty extended their lead to 10; before Tapley grounded two tries just before the half-time interval.
The winger’s first arrived in superb style, with centre Henry Staff making a strong break before Tapley showed his speed to score what was a great team effort.
Tapley’s second was a simple touch down in the corner, which was converted by Pritchard, and ensured the Blues led 27-3at the break, and used their extra man to great effect.
The third quarter provided little in try line action, due to a flurry of changes for both sides, but Bedford’s vital bonus point score arrived after 68 minutes.
With the hosts down to 13 with forwards Scott Matthews and Richard Cornock both in the bin, the Blues capitalised to score a well worked rolling maul score that was grounded by Hayden Thompson-Stringer.
The fifth try arrived via another rolling maul on 71 minutes, but this time Irish referee Andrew Brace awarded a penalty try as Keys were penalised for collapsing a maul that looked certain to lead to five points.
Sharp converted both scores, and Bedford knew they had the win wrapped up on a cold December afternoon.
Keys thought they scored the last try on 75 minutes through Jack Maynard, but there was still time for substitute Paul Tupai to get himself on the score sheet by grounding under the posts, off the back of some brilliant offloading from Pritchard and Dean Adamson in the build-up.
Bedford were therefore comfortable winners, and now head into Saturday’s clash at home to Pirates knowing another bonus point win might lead them to a quarter-final spot in the British and Irish Cup.
Cross Keys: Luke Garrett (Darren Hughes 54), Hugh Gustafson (Richard Cornock 54), Alex Jefferies (David Young 54), Danny Hodge, Joe Davies (Tom Lampard 40), Ollie Griffiths, Scott Matthews (c), Adam Powell (Josh Skinner 58); Luc Jones, Angus O’Brien, Lloyd Lewis, Jack Dixon (Polo Uhi 70), Barney Nightingale (James Leadbeater 76), Ashton Hewitt, Jack Maynard.
T: Jack Maynard. C: Jack Maynard. P: James Leadbeater.
Bedford: Tom Williams (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 56), TJ Harris (Charlie Clare 56), James Currie (Phil Boulton 65), Harry Wells, Ben Gulliver (Mike Howard 65), Justin Blanchet (Paul Tupai 40), Josh
Buggea, Hayden Thompson-Stringer; Peter White (Darryl Veenendaal 71), Jake Sharp, Dean Adamson, Henry Staff, Mike Le Bourgeois (Jim Wigglesworth 71), Pat Tapley, James Pritchard (c).
T: Harry Wells, Pat Tapley x2, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Penalty try, Paul Tupai. C: James Pritchard x4, Jake Sharp x2 P: James Pritchard x2.
Referee: Andrew Brace.