BEDFORD BLUES 26 NOTTINGHAM 17
It’s advantage Bedford Blues in the Championship play-off semi-final after their first leg win over Nottingham at Goldington Road today gave them an outstanding chance of reaching their first final.
Second half tries from Mark Atkinson and Ben Ransom along with two conversions and four penalties from fly-half Myles Dorrian puts Blues firmly in the driving seat.
A try, conversion and penalty for Nottingham from James Arlidge had given the visitors a 10-9 half-time lead before a resounding second half display from Blues means that it is Mike Rayer’s side who have their noses in front ahead of Friday night’s second leg at Meadow Lane.
It could have been even better for Bedford had it not been for a stoppage time converted penalty try awarded to Nottingham which means the gap between the sides is only nine points.
Blues named an unchanged XV with the only tweak in the squad the return from injury of Ben Gulliver who replaced Tom Armes among the replacements.
The hosts bossed possession in the first half and nearly broke through in the third minute when a move down the slope saw Brendan Burke run and off-load to James Short.
His smart grubber kick forced the visitors into touch deep into their own 22, winning a line-out.
Bedford’s endeavour was rewarded with the first points of the day coming through the boot of Dorrian on the edge of the 22 after the Green and Whites were penalised for failing to release the tackle.
But the visitors came straight back and after their first foray into the Bedford 22, Kiwi Arlidge levelled the scores – before Dorrian restored the Blues’ three point advantage after an infringement at the ruck following a dart from the back of the scrum by Luke Baldwin.
Bedford extended their lead to 9-3 on 39 minutes with the points once again coming via Dorrian’s boot.
A minute later, Ransom’s attempted clearance was charged down and the bounce was kind to Arlidge which handed him an easy run in for the first try of the afternoon.
He also took care of the extras to give Nottingham a 10-9 half-time advantage.
Bedford levelled the try scoring stakes and got their noses back in front a minute after the restart when they turned the tables and charged down Nottingham, allowing Atkinson to run the ball home, with the conversion making it 16-10.
Dorrian then missed the opportunity to register a fourth penalty of the afternoon on 57 minutes but four minutes later he did just that with another kick through the posts.
The lead was extended further on 65 minutes when Ransom powered over for a try down the right after a flowing move and good work from Dorrian and Atkinson.
Dorrian converted to make it 26-10 before missing a chance to register his fifth penalty on 77 minutes.
Replacement Phil Boulton was yellow carded in added time as Nottingham’s dogged late pressure was rewarded with a penalty try, and Arlidge’s conversion means the visitors are still in it ahead of the second leg in five nights time.
Rayer will be disappointed that the gap is not 16, but at half-time it’s advantage Bedford.