Bedford Blues 38 (14)
Jersey 21 (9)
Attendance - 2,242
Bedford blues moved back up to second in the Championship courtesy of a bonus point victory over Jersey at Goldington Road. With play-off rivals Nottingham losing away to London Scottish earlier in the day, this was the perfect chance for Mike Rayer’s men to get back on track in the league, and they duly did that with a five-try triumph.
Two push-over tries for hooker Chris Locke from mauls underlined the dominance the Blues had at the line-out, while Jake Sharp, Mark Atkinson and Ben Gulliver also got on the score sheet. It was not as comfortable as the score line might suggest though and the forward battle proved to be a particularly brutal one at times.
But most importantly, Bedford are back to winning ways in the league after back-to-back defeats. They now sit one point above Nottingham and head to Plymouth Albion next week determined not to let that slip as they bid to secure one of the top two seedings for the semi-finals.
An end-to-end opening saw the sides exhange penalties, with referee Greg MacDonald particularly hot on any defenders not rolling away from the ruck area. Pritchard’s two successful kicks to former Blues fly half Ross Broafoot’s one gave Bedford the upper hand and they were denied a try on the quarter hour after Ben Gulliver knocked on wile diving for the line following a great run from second row partner Mike Howard.
The Blues were unable to capitalise on this spell of pressure though, and a succession of reset scrums saw the game become bogged down in midfield. Jersey then levelled in the 27th minute through a second Broadfoot penalty following a great line-out drive which saw the Islanders gain 20 metres. Four minutes later, Broadfoot edge his side in front with a well-struck kick from 40 metres - this time after the Jersey pack had won a penalty at a scrum that had been controversially reset after the Blues appeared to have won the ball against the feed.
That seemed to fire up the hosts and within two minutes they were leading again. Bedford had been on top at the line-out and finally made that count, with the pack driving from outside the Jersey 22 up to the try line when Cochrane was pushed over for an unconverted score. The rest of the half saw the Blues wrestback control and they brought the half to a close with Pritchard’s third penalty after Chris Levesley had been sin binned for cynically killing the ball.
It continued in much the same vein when the second half got underway and Bedford made the most of their numerical advantage on 46 minutes. James Stephenson made the initial break and although he was brought down, fly half Sharp spied the gap and managed to get over for a second unconverted try despite a desparing last-gasp takcle attempt from Mike Le Bourgeouis.
Broadfoot then missed penalty that would have brought Jersey into losing bonus point range and they found themselves further behind just before the hour. They were undone by another line-out drive after Sharp had kicked to touch from a penalty, with Cochrane again being powered over and Pritchard converting.
Jersey did manage to pull a try back in the 67th minute when the impressive Guy Thompson managed to pass back inside and send skipper Nicky Griffiths ove, with Broadfoot converting. But Bedford clinched the try-scoring bonus point with five minutes to go with Atkinson finishing off a fine move after being put clear by replacement Luke Baldwin.
Gulliver capped off a superb performance with his first try for the club in the closing stages, while Thompson managed another consolation score for the visitors in the fifth minute of added time.
Bedford Blues - Pritchard (captain); Stephenson, Dodge (Burke 73), Atkinson, Bassett; Sharp, Veenendaal (Baldwin 61); Reeves (Seal 65), Cochrane (Locke 74), B. Cooper (Boulton 61), Howard, Gulliver, Gillanders, Armes (Fox 61), Barrell (Vandermolen 56)
Jersey - Le Bourgeois; Dawson, Stelling, T. Cooper, Levesley (Maggs 68); Broadfoot, Griffiths (captain); Barrington (Clare 48), Felton (McCarthy 48), Brennan, Hannay, Markham (Vaoileti 75), Lang, Buckle (Silcock 56), Thompson
Replacement Not Used - McCormack
Referee - Greg MacDonald