BEDFORD BLUES 24 LEEDS CARNEGIE 33
This was definitely not a game for the faint-hearted.
At times it was a brutal and bruising encounter, but the upshot was Leeds Carnegie emerged victorious after punishing Bedford Blues for a poor start which saw their defence torn apart by the away side’s rampant back line.
However, it will perhaps be as much remembered for incidents off the ball as well.
A pressure cooker atmosphere for two sides battling to secure a place in the Championship semi-finals led to tempers boiling over on several occasions, including one which resulted in a man on each side being sin binned in the first half.
However, the home fans were less than enamoured with some of the decisions from referee Ian Tempest, who repeatedly failed to punish tackles from Leeds players which definitely fell into the ‘high’ category.
Equally, Bedford were architects of their own downfall. Some horror show defending allowed Josh Griffin and David Doherty to waltz over for scores in the first half, while Joe Ford also got a try and kicked 18 points.
The small consolation for the Blues was that they managed to get a bonus point for scoring four tries.
The result sees Leeds leapfrog Bedford into third, while the Blues are now level on 61 points with Bristol after Andy Robinson’s men secured a bonus point win away to London Scottish. Mike Rayer’s side at least have a game in hand, which comes at home to Doncaster on Wednesday night.
Leeds found themselves on the back foot after being caught offside at the kick off and then conceding a free kick at the resulting scrum.
But a superb line break by Griffin took them deep into Blues territory before the visitors worked the ball off the line-out to Ford, who dinked through a clever grubber kick before diving on it for the opening try on five minutes. The fly half converted his own score, but Bedford responded on 11 minutes.
Luke Baldwin’s quick tap from a penalty caught Leeds off guard and set in motion an attack that was finished off out wide with an unconverted score from Brendan Burke.
Then two tries in the space of as many minutes saw the Yorkshiremen take a firm grip on proceedings.
Powerful running from centre Griffin and winger Doherty, coupled with some truly woeful attempts at tackling from the Blues, led to the pair both going over on 14 and 16 minutes, with Ford converting both.
The tension was also ratcheted up several notches when the home side attempted to respond, with some scuffles breaking out.
This escalated into a full-blown punch up in the 28th minute, and the referee drew the ire of the Goldington Road faithful when he sin-binned Greg Gillanders and Calum Green.
Leeds’ cause was further aided when James Stephenson was yellow carded three minutes later for a dangrous tackle, with Ford kicking the penalty.
But despite being down to 13 men, the Blues were next to score when Burke burst through a narrow gap in the defensive line for his second try of the afternoon on 34 minutes.
Jake Sharp converted from in front of the posts, but another Ford penalty on the stroke of half time saw Leeds head into the interval with a 27-12 lead.
The Leeds number 10 then booted his third penalty three minutes into the second half after Mike Howard had been harshly penalised for not rolling away.
Bedford were not done yet though and they swiftly marched up field to within striking distance, only to see Dan Seal judged to have been held up over the line and Tom Armes spill the ball with the try line at his mercy.
Mr Tempest then further enraged the home crowd when he failed to penalise replacement James Doherty after the scrum half appeared to take out Sharp high and in the air, which left the fly half needing treatment.
The Blues eventually managed to claw their way over when Armes powered through a wall of defenders, with Sharp adding the extras, but Ford’s kicking kept the scoreboard ticking over for Leeds.
Bedford broke down an obdurate defence when Neil Cochrane was driven over for an unconverted try nine minutes from time to secure a bonus point, yet there was no time to mount a comeback.