Blues snatch dramatic late victory

RFU Championship, Play-Off Pool B: Rotherham Titans 19 Bedford Blues 32

BEDFORD Blues began their play-off campaign in dramatic style with an absorbing 32-19 victory over Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane today, writes James Heneghan.

The Blues were second best for much of the match but three tries in the final eight minutes stunned the home side and gave Bedford a bonus-point victory.

Rotherham dominated virtually from start to finish and could have been out of sight but for some poor decision-making mixed with superb last-ditch Blues defending.

Despite the missed chances, Rotherham still found themselves in the lead going into the final 10 minutes but tries from Don Barrell, Josh Bassett and Darryl Veenendaal gave Bedford victory.

It was a tremendous defensive effort from the visitors and their team spirit shone threw late on, although Rotherham must be wondering how they lost the game.

The Blues made several changes for the trip up north with Bassett, Sam Walsh and Sean Tomes returning to the starting line-up.

On a blustery day in Yorkshire, Rotherham got the match under way and it took the home side just 38 seconds to open the scoring with a tremendous try as Bedford looked half asleep.

The Titans tore down the left hand side after Semisi Taulava broke through before Robin Copeland slipped in Shane Monahan for the opening try.

The Bedford defence was nowhere to be seen as Rotherham got off to the perfect start thanks with Garry Law adding a terrific conversion.

And the hosts kept up their stunning start with more swift attacking play before winning a penalty which Law converted with relative ease.

It was a sensational start by the Yorkshire side and Bedford were visibly shaken as they made several sloppy errors.

But the Blues gradually hauled themselves back into the contest after winning a series of penalties before putting their first points on the board with a simple James Pritchard penalty.

However, a mistake straight from the restart allowed Rotherham to restore their 10-point lead with another Law penalty.

It could have been much worse for the erratic Blues but a magnificent try-saving tackle from Baldwin prevented any further damage during sustained Rotherham pressure.

The game then reached a lull with Bedford enjoying some rare time on the ball before the away side eventually showed some class to cross for the first time.

Bedford switched it wide from a scrum where Pritchard was on hand to off-load to Ollie Dodge for the try before the former missed the conversion.

That try failed to halt the Rotherham charge, though, and the home side continued to batter the Blues and should have extended their lead but Law missed two good penalty chances.

Rotherham finished the half on the front foot and had numerous chances to extend their lead, but Bedford held on by their fingertips to go into the break only five points behind after a frenetic but gripping first half.

Following the lightning quick start to the first half, the second began slower with both teams making countless costly and needless errors when in threatening positions.

But the Blues did manage to reduce the gap with a superb Pritchard penalty from the halfway line.

Bedford had seemingly gained the upper hand, but Rotherham were the side applying all the pressure with a score looking inevitable, especially after Darren Fox was sin-binned.

It was relentless pressure from the Titans, as scrum after scrum was defended manfully Bedford, although the home side did manage three points thanks to the boot of Law.

And the pressure remained from Rotherham as they surged forward again and again, but some poor decision-making cost them when looking in for a try.

It was astonishing that Rotherham weren’t further ahead given all their dominance and pressure and their failure to take their chances cost them dearly when Bedford scored with their first real attack of the half.

The Blues won a penalty and kicked to the corner before a powerful drive from the lineout allowed substitute Barrell to touch down and bring the scores level.

They didn’t remain level for long, though, as Pritchard kicked the conversion to give Bedford a two-point lead with five minutes remaining.

The Blues didn’t stop there and came surging forward straight from the restart as Bassett scored a third try seconds later when he saw off three tacklers and touched down.

Again Pritchard converted and that looked to be enough for Bedford, only for Rotherham to go straight up the other end and reduce the gap to six points with a Law penalty.

But Bedford calmed the nerves only a minute later when Veenendaal charged over from a Blues scrum before Pritchard brilliantly converted to give his side a memorable win.

It was a sensational victory for Bedford after being penned on to the back foot for much of the game as Rotherham, and Law in particular, will rue their missed chances.

Titans: Shane Cahill (Jamie Kilbane 77), Dan Baines, Ben Hooper, Sam Dickinson (C), Barney Maddison (Adrian Griffiths 79), Robin Copeland, Sean Dougall, Semisi Taulava (Carl Kirwan 79), Jimmy Williams, Garry Law, Shane Monahan, Pale Nonu (Byron Godfrey 77), Dave McCall, Tom Foden, Stephen Hamilton. Replacements not used: Ted Stagg, Talite Vaioleti, Matt Rhodes. T: Monahan. C: Law P: Law 4.

Blues: Sam Walsh (Nico Steenkamp (63), Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton, Sean Tomes (Sacha Harding 62), Paul Tupai, Alex Rae, Darren Fox, Jonathon Fisher (Don Barrell 62), Luke Baldwin (Darryl Veenendaal 62), Jake Sharp (Jamie Lennard 62), Josh Bassett, Ian Vass (Brendan Burke 51), Henry Staff, Ollie Dodge, James Pritchard (C). Replacements not used: Chris Locke. T: Dodge, Barrell, Bassett, Veenendaal. C: Pritchard 3. P: Pritchard 2.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.

Touch Judges: Chris Sharp and Barry Dolby.

Attendance: 1,586.

Star Blue: James Pritchard. His kicking kept Bedford ticking over when on the back foot.