Bedford Blues defeated the Army 55-26 in the annual Mobbs memorial match on Tuesday night which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Mobbs’ death.
Lt Col Mobbs would have been truly thrilled with the rugby on display at Goldington Road, with 13 tries scored during an enthralling 80 minutes.
Nine went the way of the Blues – including a hat-trick from debutant Ryan Hutler of the Blues development squad – and four for the Army who battled until the final minute.
There was a great sense of occasion before kick-off as both teams ran out together and lined up for the national anthem, played by the The Band of The Parachute Regiment.
That sense carried on to the pitch as both teams set about impressing the 1,410- strong crowd with some fine displays of running rugby and hard-hitting defensive plays as well.
Bedford withstood an initial Army attack before taking over possession and dominating territory.
It was only a slippery ball that prevented Ben Adams from crossing in the fifth minute after great work from Pat Tapley.
Sam Olver and Rory Hutchinson, both Northampton Saints players pulling on the Blues jersey, linked up well to release Elliot Clements-Hill only for him to experience the same result moments later.
The Blues’ dominance finally paid off in the 21st minute when an overthrown Bedford lineout resulted in the opening try.
Chris Judge was first to react, charging forward after catching the ball and he set the ruck which saw a couple more phases with Byron Hodge and Mike Howard heading forwards.
Tom Kessell (Saints) orchestrated the backs with Olver and Ollie Dodge crashing through before Kessell fizzed the ball to Hutler to score the unconverted try.
Two minutes later and Bedford stunned Army with a second score.
Hutchinson was again involved and he showed great juggling skills to keep possession.
As the centre took the tackle, he offloaded to Paul Tupai who had Dodge outside him and with only one defender to beat, the ball found Tapley who coasted over the line, Olver striking a good conversion to make it 12-0.
Army went on the attack and Bedford were pinged for not releasing a tackle. Skipper Rob Lennox took the quick tap and go from close range and the ball was quickly recycled to winger Junior Bulumakau but he knocked on.
Bedford continued to play fast-flowing rugby with Hodge, Ed Taylor and Tupai in the thick of the action while Ralph Adams-Hale and Tom Lindsay (both Saracens) were keen to hit any ruck hard.
Sadly, former Blue Ricky Reeves’ night ended early in the 37th minute after an injury. The change perhaps disrupted the Army gameplan as Bedford went over for their third try soon after. Another good passage of play resulted in Kessell and Olver linking up to play in Hutler for his second of the night, which Olver duly converted.
But Army regathered and ended the half on a high as they scored their opening try in stoppage time. Former Fijian fly-half Jack Prasad scuttled from one side of the field to the other before sending the ball along the line to Chris Leathem who scored, centre James Dixon converting to make it 19-7 at the break.
Bedford introduced Dan Lewis for the second half in place of Olver and the youngster was soon in the thick of the action as Bedford continued pressing.
The forwards pressed hard before Kessell and Lewis combined to send the ball down the line to Hutler who dived over for his hat-trick, Lewis slotting the extras.
Two minutes later and Lewis got his name on the scoreboard as he showed a clean pair of heels to hurtle over the line.
Bedford went on to make it 38-7 when Tapley ran in his second of the night before a fine seventh try followed as Kessell slipped a glorious inside pass to Adams who stepped cheekily past the final defender to score. Lewis converted both.
Army regrouped and went on the attack, scoring a Baa Baas-inspired second try. It was end-to-end before the calm heads and cool hands of props Ken Dowding and Turkish Titchard-Jones played in Lennox for the try, Dixon adding the extras.
Bedford retaliated with a double from Clements-Hill to make it 55-14.
But again Army showed resilience as they scored two late tries which thrilled the crowd.
Excellent inter-play saw Leathem cross for his second try before replacement Rav Fatiaki finished off a frenetic final attack of the night, which Dixon converted.