Bedford were superb on Boxing Day, but it wasn’t to be as they lost 24-28 to a Bristol side who returned to the top of the tree in the Championship standings.
In front of an incredible 4401 fans at a wet Goldington Road, Bedford fought hard and managed to collect two losing bonus points to ensure their hard work and quality of performance didn’t go to waste in defeat.
Bristol have now won all 15 of their matches this season in the league and cup; and therefore Bedford can take a huge amount of pride from a performance that almost ended their unbeaten start to the season.
The visitors managed to get themselves on the score sheet first via a huge push over try from a line-out.
Bristol had a line-out 40 metres out after a good clearance kick from Bedford’s Darryl Veenendaal; and their forward pack pushed a huge rolling maul to the try line to allow Olly Robinson to ground the ball over the line.
His namesake, Nicky Robinson, converted the try and visitors were ahead 0-7 after five minutes on the clock.
That was the only points they were to score in the opening 40 though, as Bedford showed their attacking intent after 12 minutes when skipper for the day James Pritchard scored.
Jake Sharp chipped the ball over Bristol’s defence; Michael Le Bourgeois collected the ball superbly, before a couple of passes went wide to find Pritchard who was able to ground the ball in the corner.
The Canadian was unable to convert, but the try was brilliantly taken by a backline that have showed their potent threat in recent weeks, and this try demonstrated that perfectly to get the Blues back in it.
After the first try of the day where the league leaders’ pack showed their strength, it was Bedford’s forwards who were next to show their strength.
A series of penalties conceded by Bristol allowed the Blues the ball deep in the visitors’ 22, and as a result of their ill-discipline, Mitch Eadie was yellow-carded for entering the ruck through the side.
Bedford’s pack smelt blood, and they were quick to utilise their numerical advantage by converting their pressure in to points on the board.
The rolling maul was stopped by Bristol’s defence, but they could only keep them out from the first phase as from the resulting move; Harry Wells found himself on the end of a short pass and bundled his way over after a powerful run from close range.
Pritchard was unable to convert, but Bedford were ahead 10-7 after 23 minutes.
With Bristol still down to 14, the Blues were quick to punish their visitors further on the score board.
A great break from Veenendaal round the side of the ruck found himself one on one against Bristol’s full back Jack Wallace, and winger Dean Adamson was outside him to collect the pass to sprint over.
Pritchard was successful with the conversion, and Bedford led the league leaders by 10 points as Eadie’s time in the bin ended.
Andy Robinson’s side thought they scored just before half-time through Chris Brooker, but the hooker was adjudged to lose possession just before the line and they went into half time trailing 17-7.
Playing up the slope in the second period, Bristol were desperate to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and they closed the deficit to just three points after 50 minutes.
With an attacking line-out just outside Bedford’s 22, Bristol won possession and eventually shipped the ball to the backs to allow winger Andy Short to take advantage of an overlap out wide and comfortably run over to score his side’s second of the afternoon.
Robinson again converted, and Bristol looked to have found their way back into the match.
The side captained by David Lemi began to pile on the pressure, and a strong break by Marco Mama looked to have been enough for a score, but great defensive work from the hosts was enough to keep them out.
However, on 62 minutes, their pressure turned into points as Bristol regained the lead.
A strong break by Mama off the back of a rolling maul sucked in the Bedford defence, and Brooker was able to dot the ball down over the line to re-establish their lead.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to bag their bonus point try as Brooker, this time collecting the ball after a lovely offload by Glen Townson, ran in under the posts to score his second in a matter of minutes.
Robinson converted both, and the league leaders led 17-28 after 65 minutes.
Bedford were continuing to battle hard though right until the end, and they scored their bonus point try after 78 minutes.
Pat Tapley collected the ball and showed exhilarating speed and acceleration to get away from his man and sprint under the sticks to get a bonus point try that the hosts more than deserved.
Pritchard converted from in front, and looked to give a glimmer of hope for those inside Goldington Road supporting Mike Rayer’s side, but Bristol held on and secured a bonus point win.
With four tries apiece, both side can be more than happy with their Boxing Day efforts, at a Goldington Road event that was full of success both on and off the pitch.
Bedford will now look to take this superb performance into the turn of the New Year, when they start 2015 by travelling to Billesley Common to face 11th placed Moseley in the Championship.
Bedford: Tom Williams (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 62), Charlie Clare (TJ Harris 72), Phil Boulton (James Currie 62), Harry Wells, Ben Gulliver (Mike Howard 62), Justin Blanchet, Josh Buggea (Joe Vandermolen 65), Paul Tupai; Darryl Veenendaal (Peter White 72), Jake Sharp, Dean Adamson, Viliame Hakalo (Ollie Dodge 67), Michael Le Bourgeois, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard (c)
T: James Pritchard, Josh Buggea, Dean Adamson, Pat Tapley C: James Pritchardx2 P:
Bristol: Jack O’Connell, Chris Brooker (Max Crumpton 74), Anthony Perenise (James Hall 40), Ian Evans, Glen Townson, Marco Mama, Olly Robinson (Nick Koster 71), Mitch Eadie; Craig Hampson, Nicky Robinson, David Lemi (c), Ben Mosses, Gareth Maule, Andy Short, Jack Wallace
Replacements not used: Ben Glynn, Tim Turner, Adrian Jarvis, Jack Tovey
T: Olly Robinson, Andy Short, Chris Brookerx2 C: Nicky Robinsonx4 P:
Referee: Andrew Small