RFU Championship: Doncaster Knights 21 Bedford Blues 22
Brendan Burke’s injury time conversion gave Bedford Blues a heroic 22-21 victory against Doncaster Knights at Castle Park tonight (Friday), writes Michael Hann.
The first 40 minutes of the game was something of a cagey affair, with both sides creating little in the way of scoring opportunities.
Nevertheless, Doncaster went into the break leading after Dom Parsons’ converted try gave the Championship’s bottom side the advantage.
Burke pulled a try back for the Blues at the start of the second half, but two quick tries from Brian McGovern and Dante Mama looked to have sealed the win for the home side.
However, Bedford’s never-say-die attitude saw Ricky Reeves get the comeback under way five minutes from time and in the 10th minute of injury time Burke converted Josh Bassett’s try to claim a famous win.
Bedford made several changes to the side that lost to Newcastle last time out. Mark Atkinson started at full-back in place of James Pritchard who is away on international duty with Canada, while Darryl Veenendaal and Mark Kohler came in for Saracens duo Luke Baldwin and Ben Ransom.
It was the Blues that enjoyed the early possession and Atkinson was looking lively, but the visitors couldn’t create an opening to score.
Doncaster, who have struggled in the Championship so far this season, proceeded to grow into the half and fashioned a number of chances.
Jamie Lennard’s penalty to touch looked to be staying in play but a kind bounce of the ball saw the ball creep out for a lineout.
That put the Blues on the back foot as the home side started to build pressure for the first time in the game.
And the Knights were rewarded when another lineout was worked out to lock Parsons who crashed his way through the Blues defence to score.
Former Blue, Jamie Lennard, converted as Bedford were trailed to the Yorkshire side.
The Knights had an opportunity to extend their lead moments later as Bedford conceded a penalty – but Lennard couldn’t convert from 45 metres.
The game then came to an abrupt halt as Henry Staff was forced off with an injury and Ian Vass came on in his place.
From the restart the Blues got their first points of the game as Doncaster gave away a penalty after failing to bind fully in the scrum and Jake Sharp threaded the posts.
Bedford were rejuvenated and Sharp had another chance for three points – but his kick from 45 metres went wide.
With the first half drawing to a close Doncaster looked to finish the period with a flourish.
A flowing moved looked to have created a golden opportunity to score but the ball was knocked forward.
That proved to be the last piece of action of the first half as Bedford trailed 7-3 at the interval.
The Blues made the perfect start to the second half as they scored a try six minutes in.
Darren Fox’s initial break was built upon by Mike Howard and he fed Burke superbly who went over for Bedford’s first try of the match.
Sharp converted and the Blues were in front for the first time.
Doncaster could have levelled the scores moments later but Lennard’s penalty from 45 metres again went wide.
However, the Knights continued to impose themselves on the game and, after winning several penalties on the Blues’ five-metre line Neil Cochrane was sin-binned.
And Bedford were made to pay for losing a man as the resulting lineout saw replacement prop Brian McGovern dive over the whitewash and Lennard converted as the Blues trailed once again.
The game then looked to have slipped further out of Bedford’s reach as they conceded their third try of the match when Dante Mama intercepted a Blues pass and raced 50 metres downfield to score.
Lennard’s conversion meant the visitors were now 21 -10 behind.
But Bedford refused to roll over and with five minutes to go they pulled a try back when Ricky Reeves finished off a good phase of play.
Sharp couldn’t convert from a tight angle and the score now stood at 21-15 – with the Blues needing a converted try to triumph.
However, they looked to be running out of time as the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark.
The Blues camped themselves on the Knights’ five-metre line as the hosts continued to give away penalties.
Tom Davies eventually saw yellow for his part in proceedings and it was now or never for the Blues.
A quickly-taken penalty started the move and, after several phases, Bassett somehow managed to scramble to ball over the line.
All that was needed now was the conversion and with regular kicker Sharp off injured the nerve-racking task fell to Burke.
The Irishman stepped up and coolly slotted the ball between the posts, sending Bedford bench into ecstasy as Doncaster were left wondering how they came away with another defeat, although Bedford won’t mind a jot.
Knights: Tom Davies, Rhys Buckley (Ben Sowery 70), Tomas Francis (Brian McGovern 60), Matt Challinor (C), Dominic Parsons, Adam Kettle (Andy Boyde 54), David Bradford, Chris Planchant, Chris Hallam (James Munro 75), Tom Luke (Sam Pailor 80), Tyson Lewis, Will Simpson (James Tincknell 40), Dante Mama, Dougie Flockhart, Jamie Lennard. Replacements not used: Phil Hoy. T: Parsons, McGovern, Mama. C: Lennard 3.
Blues: Ricky Reeves (Darren Fearn 80), Scott Spurling (Neil Cochrane 54), Dan Seal (Ben Cooper 57), Mike Howard, Alex Rae (C), Gregor Gillanders (Ben Gulliver 70), Darren Fox, Paul Tupai (Don Barrell 70), Darryl Veenendaal (Ali Price 75), Jake Sharp, Josh Bassett, Henry Staff (Ian Vass 30), Brendan Burke, Mark Kohler, Mark Atkinson. T: Burke, Reeves, Bassett. C: Sharp, Burke. P: Sharp
Referee: Greg Macdonald.
Touch Judges: Rowan Kitt and Darryl Chapman.
Star Blue: Brendan Burke. The Blues centre produced a dogged display and deserves special praise for holding his nerve to kick the decisive points in the match.