Bedford Blues 41-32 Doncaster Knights.
The Knights were unable to hold their early lead against Bedford Blues as they lost out in a vastly entertaining display at Goldington Road.
The Blues are renowned for the free-flowing and attacking brand of rugby and they did not disappoint today and the Knights were seemingly sucked in and looked to match them at their own game.
The result of this was 73-point thriller with four tries scored a piece and fly-half Will Hooley’s five penalties proving to be the difference between the two sides; including a controversial one late on to rob Donny of a losing bonus-point.
Fans did not need to wait long for the first score of the game which came after just eight minutes and could have been earlier with opportunities knocking from the opening whistle.
A thundering hit in midfield from number eight Josh Tyrell saw possession turned loose as Bedford went on the attack. Colin Quigley seized the loose ball and play was quickly moved wide where Cam Cowell showed his lightening pace to break into the home 22m. Possession was recycled and after a couple of phases Simon Humberstone launched a wide miss pass which was collected by David Nelson to trot over in the corner. Flockhart’s conversion dropped just wide.
The home fans were not quiet for long as just two minutes later they were back on level terms.
Winger Howard Packman chipped a smart kick ahead of Tyson Lewis forcing Jack Ram to race back and ground in goal. From the resulting scrum full back Rich Lane cut into the line and was able to fight through contact and touch down. Fly half Will Hooley had a bit of a nightmare with the extras leaving the scores at 5-5.
No sooner had we drawn breath than the game’s third try was scored.
An early shove at a Knights scrum saw referee Chris Riley award Donny with a free kick that was quickly taken by Tom James who hit Lesley Klim on a stunning flat line. Les burst through the Blues defence leaving him one on one against full back Lane where some smart footwork and good pace saw the centre skip home to score and Dougie added the extras.
The Knights almost added another just two minutes later but Tyson Lewis was just judged to have put a foot in touch after taking an offload from James. Play was brought back for a high tackle on the Knights scrum half earlier in the play and Lee Dickson was sin binned for the offence. Flockhart took advantage to kick the Donny into a ten-point lead.
It lasted only moments though as the topsy-turvy nature of the early scoring continued. Richard Lane got his second without needing to do an awful lot with lots of space found for the full back to cross on the right hand side.
Hooley hit the extras shortly before levelling the scores with a penalty on 25 minutes after a back-peddling Donny defence was penalized; 15-15.
The Blues then took the lead for the first time with the final try of the first half. Will Hooley struck a penalty deep into the Knights 22m but it seemed as if the danger had passed when hooker Tom Lindsay overthrew the line out. Jason Hill was quickest to react but as he went to claim possession knocked on and the ball was quickly spun in field where Lindsay was on hand to run in untouched.
Hooley hit the extras and a then second penalty before the break to make the half time score 25-15.
With forty minutes playing down the ‘Bedford slope’ to come there was no need for undue concern and the Knights made an electric start to the second half.
An early penalty was put to touch by Humberstone and, after securing possession the pack looked to drive, the home defense dropped the maul but the forwards kept it tight and strung together some patient pick and go phases. Time and time again the Blues repelled the carries but once play was switched wide Will Owen was able to bash his way through to touch down.
The side’s exchanged successful penalty kicks before the hour mark leaving Bedford ahead 28-25 going into the game’s final quarter.
The Knights seemed well-placed for a strong finish but an overthrown lineout on half way was cruelly punished. A bouncing ball was collected and the Blues quickly transitioned from defence to attack, former Knight Jarad Williams ran a smart shoulder line to break before finding Lee Dickson in support to score.
Hooley kicked his fourth penalty of the afternoon with just over ten-minutes remaining leaving the Knights with a mountain to climb. There was no sign of surrender in the side though as they battled to register a fourth try and reduce the deficit to six points.
Seemingly endless phases on pick and go carries eventually ended when replacement back-row Alex Shaw forced his way over with five minutes left to play and Flockhart added the extras.
Bedford did well to run the clock out in the dying minutes before a rather farcical ending to the tie.
Having been awarded a penalty, referee Chris Riley signaled the last play of the game and Harry Sheppard kicked the ball to touch to end the game….or so he thought.
With the players shaking hands and fans walking to the bar Riley came back on to the field to announce that it was in fact not the end of the game and that the penalty should be retaken with a couple of seconds left on the clock. Having received this new information Sheppard elected to go at goal and with a successful kick ended the game and denied the Knights a losing bonus point.
Another tough loss to take for the Knights who should real class at times and now hope to secure progression to the British and Irish Cup semi-finals against Jersey Reds on Good Friday.
Blues XV; 15. Rich Lane, 14. Howard Packman, 13. Rory Hutchinson, 12. Michael Le Bourgeois (c), 11. Dean Adamson, 10. Will Hooley (Harry Sheppard 78’), 9. Lee Dickson (Jordan Burns 68’), 1. Sean McCarthy (Camilo Parilli-Ocampo 64’), 2. Tom Lindsay (Jacob Fields 61’), 3. Ben Cooper (Dev Spellman 53’), 4. Jordan Onojaife (Ed Taylor 53’), 5. Will Carrick-Smith, 6. Alex Rae, 7. Huw Worthington (Justin Blanchet 53’), 8. Jarad Williams Replacements: 16. Jacob Fields, 17. Dave Spelman, 18. Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, 19. Ed Taylor, 20. Justin Blanchet, 21. Jordan Burns, 22. Harry Sheppard
Tries; Lane 10’, 20’, Lindsay 35’, Dickson 58’
Conv; Hooley 20’, 35’, 58;
Pens; Hooley 24’, 38’, 56’, 67’, 80’
Knights XV: 15) Cameron Cowell (Charlie Foley 69’), 14) Dougie Flockhart, 13) Lesley Klim, 12) Will Owen, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Simon Humberstone, 9) Tom James, 1) Jack Bergmanas (Owen Evans, 62’) David Nelson (Curtis Langdon 35’), 23) Colin Quigley (Joe Sproston 62), 4) Matt Challinor (Nick Civetta 43’), 5) Tom Hicks, 6) Jason Hill, 7) Jack Ram 8) Josh Tyrell (Alex Shaw 40’)
Replacements: 16) Curtis Langdon, 17) Owen Evans, 18) Joe Sproston, 19) Nick Civetta, 20) Alex Shaw, 21) Michael Heaney, 22) Charlie Foley.
Tries; Nelson 7’, Klim 13’, Owen 42’, Shaw 75’
Conv; Flockhart 14’, 42’, 75’
Pens; Flockhart 18’, 53’
Referee; Chris Riley