Greene King Championship: London Scottish 36 Bedford 30
Bedford Blues were unlucky to lose 36-30 away at top of the table London Scottish on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues managed to collect four tries and a losing bonus point in a match that they will feel they could have got something more from.
London Scottish, who have won all three of their matches to date, were in front throughout but escaped with a victory after a nervy ending to the match for the hosts where Bedford finished strongly.
Bedford’s Steffan Jones kicked off for the visitors, as they looked to gain early territory in the opening exchanges.
Fine rush defence early on from Mike Le Bourgeois allowed Peter White to do some good grubber kicks and force the leaders deep into their half.
However it didn’t take long for the hosts to start their offloading game and ultimately lead to their first try after just three minutes.
A nice offload from Scottish captain Mark Bright set-up a good attacking position down the left wing and allowed fly-half Dan Newton time in midfield.
Newton identified a gap on Bedford’s left, and with winger Matt Williams in space, the number 10 did a cross field kick that was comfortably collected by Williams, allowing him to easily run into the corner.
Bedford looked to run the ball from deep early on, moving the ball through the hands of the backs.
That meant the Blues looked dangerous wherever they were on the pitch, and with Scottish looking to slow their ball down, they were penalised for using their hands in the ruck.
James Pritchard converted and the deficit was only four points.
However that didn’t last long as Scottish scored their second try just two minutes later.
A powerful rolling maul from the league leaders allowed them possession close to the Blues’ try line.
The defence was forced to collapse and allow a free play. It was an opportunity they didn’t want to turn down as good offloading allowed PJ Tipley to force his way over from close range.
Peter Lydon converted and suddenly Bedford found themselves 14-3 down after just 10 minutes.
However the Blues were far from out of contention as they looked dangerous every time they had the ball, looking to move the ball through the hands.
Ultimately that led to Blues’ first try as scrum-half Peter White made a strong break down the blindside of a ruck, before getting the ball to Jones.
The Welsh fly-half made a strong step to beat his opposite number and run towards the line. Good scramble defence form Scottish prevented him scoring, but Pritchard was on his shoulder to ground the ball.
The Canadian converted and the Blues were only four points behind after 24 minutes.
London Scottish, who have beat Rotherham and Cornish Pirates already this season, have built much of their good play on their strong pack and set-piece.
Scottish captain Mark Bright scored six tries in those two matches, many of whom the result of a rolling maul.
His seventh score of the season arrived after 26 minutes as a result of a line-out that was won by the London outfit five metres from the Blues’ line.
The inevitable rolling maul followed and Bedford’s pack were unable to stop Bright scoring, with full-back Lydon converting his third conversion and stretching their lead 21-10.
Bedford conceded 11 penalties in the first half, but the scores from poor discipline was in favour of the Blues as their second penalty arrived because of an offside in the midfield. Pritchard punished them from 39 metres out as his kick sailed through the posts.
It looked like the score will be 21-13 at half time, but Scottish managed to score their bonus point try with the last play of the half.
London Scottish concentrated much of their play on the forward pack, and it was their pack behind their bonus point score.
A Bedford scrum eight metres out was won against the head and scrum-half Jamie Stevenson was just about able to ground the ball on the line.
Lydon was unsuccessful with his conversion and Scottish led 26-13 at the break.
Bedford’s running was a real throughout and it took them less than two minutes to score the first points of the second half.
Pritchard was a threat for the Scottish defence and a strong line break allowed the full-back to offload to Dean Adamson to run unopposed under the posts.
With the simplest of conversions converted by Pritchard, Blues trailed by just the six points.
However, poor discipline continued into the second half early on and a Lydon penalty from 30 metres meant the visitors needed to score two tries to take the lead.
Blues’ onrushing defence put pressure on Scottish’s attacks, but a neat grubber kick by Newton nearly found Williams for his second try, as the winger knocked on over the line after being put under pressure from substitute scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal.
Despite that great effort in defence, it was Scottish who scored next after 62 minutes. Harry Wells was sin-binned after committing the Blues’ 15th penalty and the rolling maul followed from Scottish, but it was Stevenson who darted over the line down the blindside to score his second try of the match.
Lydon then brilliantly converted from the touchline to take the score to 36-20.
That proved to be the last points tallied by London Scottish as Bedford showed great character in the last 15 minutes.
Blues’ forward pack managed to win a line-out against the head deep in the hosts’ half.
Substitute Jake Sharp then found Le Bourgeois with a crossfield kick and the centre grounded the ball over the line.
The visitors then scored their bonus point fourth try on 72 minutes as Pat Tapley made a strong break down the right wing following a great pass from Veenendaal.
That meant Bedford were only trailing six points in the closing stages and looked like they might have stole victory at the end, but the referee adjudged Nick Fenton-Wells as being held up when over the try line.
Despite the defeat, Bedford can take plenty of positives from the match and now head to Plymouth Albion next Saturday in the Greene King Championship.
London Scottish: James Hallam (Mark Lilley 46) , Adam Kwasnicki, Max Maidment (Stewart Maguire 46), Sam Twomey, Adam Preocanin, Neil Best (Gregor Gillanders 60), Chevvy Pennycook, Mark Bright (c); Jamie Stevenson (Sam Stuart 60) , Dan Newton, Miles Mantella, PJ Gidlow, Mike Doneghan, Matt Williams, Peter Lydon (Lee Millar 64).
Replacements not used: David Cherry, Tai Tuisamoa.
T: Jamie Stevenson 2, Matt Williams, PJ Gidlow, Mark Bright. C: Peter Lydon. 3 P: Peter Lydon.
Bedford: Billy Moss (Charlie Clare 49), Jared Saunders (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 69), Phil Boulton (James Currie 49), Mike Howard, Harry Wells, Paul Tupai, Josh Buggea, Nick Fenton-Wells (c); Peter White (Darryl Veenendaal 50) , Steffan Jones (Jake Sharp 61) , Dean Adamson, Henry Staff, Michael Le Bourgeois, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard (Jim Wigglesworth 61).
Replacements not used: Eoin Sheriff.
T: James Pritchard, Pat Tapley, Dean Adamson, Michael Le Bourgeios. C: James Pritchard 2. P: James Pritchard 2.
Referee: Dean Richards.
Assistant Referees: Clare Daniels and Roy Maybank.
Star Blue: Steffan Jones – The Welshamn was key in the midfield and starting all the key attacks for Bedford.