Blues fall to last-gasp defeat

James Pritchard
James Pritchard

British & Irish Cup: Bedford 22 Cross Keys 23

For the second match in a row, a last minute try and conversion meant defeat for Bedford Blues in the British and Irish Cup.

Cross Keys’ Dorian Jones scored the conversion with the last kick of the game to secure a 23-22 victory at Goldington Road on Saturday.

The result means Bedford are two defeats from two in Pool 4 of the B&I cup, and know a win next week at Doncaster is a must to stand any chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds.

The match started with Cross Keys, who were making only their second trip to Goldington Road, kicking down the slope in the first half and it was they who were first to put points on the scoreboard.

Villiami Hakalo, who was making his first start at home for the Blues, committed a high tackle and Jones converted a simple penalty in front of the posts after just three minutes.

However Blues’ response was imminent as they scored their first try of the match just two minutes later.

A successful line-out was won inside their opponents 22, and the ball was quickly shipped out wide to the backs.

Hakalo showed his strength with the ball in hand by punching his way through tackles before passing wide to Dean Adamson, the winger jinked past the full back to continue his good try scoring form of late.

The home side then backed up their early score by scoring two more tries with just 11 and 14 minutes on the clock respectively.

Bedford looked to run the ball whenever they could, and scrum-half Peter White was the catalyst for the second try by taking a penalty early on the halfway.

Steffan Jones, who played for Cross Keys last season, was on White’s shoulder before passing to James Pritchard to score a simple try from close range on his 250th appearance for the club.

Blues’ third arrived through captain Nick Fenton-Wells after the hosts capitalised on defensive errors by Cross Keys.

An up and under by Jones was allowed to bounce by Keys’ full-back Jason Tovey and Michael Le Bourgeios collected the ball and win possession for his side.

With the Welsh teams defence unorganised, the ball was moved through the hands and Fenton-Wells spotted a gaping hole in front of him that he powered straight through to score his sides third try inside the opening quarter of an hour.

With the score line reading 19-3 in favour of Bedford, many of the 2,425 inside Goldington Road on Ladies day would be forgiven for expecting a comfortable win for the hosts, yet the visitors had other ideas.

The Welsh Principality side made their first real venture into the Blues’ half after 26 minutes, but immediately came away with a score.

There was an overlap on the right of the Blues defence and lock forward Dan Hodge ran straight through it before giving it to the powerful winger Uhi Polo on the touchline; Keys’ number 11 palmed away two tackles before scoring his side’s first score in the corner.

Bedford’s ill-discipline continued to be a thorn in their side’s success as Darrell Dyer was sin-binned after 30 minutes for not releasing in the tackle.

The decision looked harsh, but his side were punished from the resulting attack.

The line-out was successfully defended by Bedford’s dominant pack, but the ball was worked back to allow Simon Williams to bundle his way over and reduce his sides deficit to just six points at the interval.

After the half time break, both teams produced very little in try line action, the best chances looked to have fallen to Bedford, but they were unable to take them.

Firstly, a series of errors on 64 minutes almost led to Le Bourgeois scoring in the corner, but the centre slipped just in front of the line and the Blues were unable to convert from the resulting phases of play.

Then Dyer looked to have intercepted a loose pass and run clear, but scramble defence before the line stopped him and the chance evaded the winger.

Following that, a Pritchard penalty stretched Blues’ lead to nine and looked to have secured a scrappy win for Mike Rayer’s side, but that proved to be wrong.

A Jones penalty after 74 minutes was kicked with securing a losing bonus point in mind, but Cross Keys ended up snatching victory with the last play of the game with 81 minutes on the clock.

Captain Leon Andrews drove himself over from close range; Jones’ conversion went through the posts to the delight of those from Wales, and Bedford were in shock as to how they lost a match they were leading throughout.

The Blues now head to Doncaster on Saturday knowing only a win will keep their hopes of qualifying alive.

Bedford: Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, Charlie Clare, James Currie (Phil Boulton 67), Mike Howard (Harry Wells 71), Eoin Sheriff, Paul Tupai, Joe Vandermolen, Nick Fenton-Wells (c) (Josh Buggea 67), Peter White (Darryl Veenendaal 50), Steffan Jones (Jake Sharp 69), Dean Adamson, Viliami Hakalo (Ollie Dodge 71), Michael Le Bourgeois, Darrell Dyer, James Pritchard.

Replacement not used: TJ Harris.

T: Dean Adamson, James Pritchard and Nick Fenton-Wells C: James Pritchard x2 P: James Pritchard

Cross Keys: Phil Price (Luke Garrett 53), Rhys Buckley (Darren Hughes 75), David Young (Alex Jefferies 53), Danny Hodge, Simon Williams (Scott Andrews 69), Josh Skinner (Scott Matthews 45), Ollie Griffiths, Adam Powell; Luc Jones (James Leadbeater 61), Dorian Jones, Polo Uhi, Barney Nightingale, Leon Andrews (c), Ashton Hewitt, Jason Tovey (James Cordy-Redden 66).

T: Uhi Polo, Simon Williams and Leon Andrews C: Dorian Jones P: Dorian Jones x2

Attendance: 2,425

Referee: Stuart Gaffikin

Assistant Referees: Chris Sharp and Richard Kelly