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Rugby union: Bedford Blues 22 Rotherham 16

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: December 26, 2012

By MARC BAZELEY

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RFU Championship

Bedford Blues 22 (6)

Rotherham Titans 16 (9)

Attendance - 4,418

Who said Bedford Blues cannot play wet-weather rugby?

With Goldington Road enveloped by a torrential downpour, it was always going to be a case of just having to grind out a result for Mike Rayer’s side in the Boxing Day clash with Rotherham Titans. And that is exactly what they did in an attritional affair, showing they are a team for a all seasons.

The Blues had actually found themselves trailing by three points at the break, but James Stephenson's converted try, a drop goal from Jake Sharp and 14 points kicked by James Pritchard saw them come through.

Rotherham, now coached by former Blues player Alex Codling, battled hard and managed to earn a bonus point. Yet they will also rue their own indiscipline which saw them have a man sin binned in each half.

Bedford found themselves under pressure straight from the kick off after Darryl Veenendaal's clearance was charged down by fellow scrum half Charles Mulchrone.

The hosts did manage to regain possession, but the wet weather was making handling incredibly difficult.

The Blues then conceded a line-out on the edge of their 22 and although James McKinney missed with a drop goal attempt, Rotherham took the lead in the fourth minute when Garry Law slotted over a penalty.

Titans skipper Law kicked another from around 40 metres out three minutes later after Phil Boulton had been penalised for not binding correctly at a scrum, although it was not long before Bedford were on the score board.

The move began when Lee Blackett fumbled a high kick from fly half Sharp and Stephenson recovered the ball. He made some precious yards and then a succession of pick-and-drives from the forwards inched the Blues ever closer. They did not manage to get a try, but Dan Sanderson's failure to roll away from the tackle area allowed Pritchard to kick three points from in front of the posts in the 11th minute.

Bedford were starting to claw their way back into the game, with the pack trying to get the driving maul going from the line-out. Their repeated efforts eventually broke some stern defence from the Titans and in desperation, Law went ploughing into the side in an attempt to prevent a try.

This led to a brief scuffle and Law being penalised, as well as sin binned, by referee Darren Gamage who had a peferct view of the incident. Pritchard also kicked the three points on offer to level the scores at the midway point of the half.

The Blues were now looking to make the most of their numerical advantage and when Neil Cochrane stole the ball from the back of a Rotherham line-out it looked as if they would do just that.

However, Sharp's knock-on allowed Rotherham to swiftly turn defence into attack and when they were awarded a pealty it allowed McKinney to edge them back in front on 27 minutes. The crossbar then prevented Law from putting his side six points clear after returning to the field.

Right on the stroke of half time, another powerful maul drove the Blues deep into Rotherham territory before Cochrane broke away and went for the try, only to be help up by Mulchrone. Pritchard was then afford to the chance to level the scores with a kickable penalty, but put it wide.

That left Bedford trailing by three points at the interval and they began the second half with purpose. Two strong runs from centre Mark Atkinson put the Titans on the back foot before Sharp worked himself into position to land a 44th minute drop goal.

The home side led for the first time three minutes later. Great carries from the pack took them to within striking distance before the backs took over, with Pritchard dinking through a grubber kick that winger Stephenson managed to dot down for a try that was converted.

At the other end, Law saw a penalty attempt from just inside the Bedford half fall short, while Canadian international Pritchard extended the Blues' advantage to ten points on the hour mark after Brendan Burke had been obstructed by replacement Pale Nonu.

Repeated infringements from the centre led to him being shown a yellow card in the 67th minute, during which time Pritchard kicked two further penalties to keep the score board ticking over.

The Titans did manage a try three minutes from time through Peter Homan that was converted by Law to ensure that they would at least come away with a losing bonus point.

But Bedford now move four points clear of Nottingham and can enjoy the extra couple of days they have off before travelling to London Scottish on January 5.

Bedford Blues: Pritchard (captain); Stephenson, Burke, Atkinson, Bassett; Sharp, Veenendaal (Baldwin 56); Fearn (Seal 41), Cochrane, Boulton (Reeves 41), M. Howard (Gillanders 76), Gulliver, Rae, Fox, Tupai (Barrell 69)

Replacements Not Used - Locke, Gillanders, Vass

Rotherham Titans: Law (captain); Homan, Sheridan, Blackett (Nonu 41), F. Mulchrone (B. Howard 64); McKinney, Mulchrone (Williams 55); Gadd, Baines (Hannan 41), Davies (Denman 64), Thomas, Sanderson (Rieder 68), Maakafi, Kirwan (Ellyatt 64), Freeman

Referee: Darren Gamage

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