Bedford 38 Jersey 21
by Tom Innes
Pics by kind permission Nigel Rudgard Photography (click for
Jersey's attempt to upset the 'fathers of the division' started
promisingly, but then went downhill, both literally and
metaphorically. By the time the final whistle went, the Islanders
had been put to bed, and another Championship away-day had passed
without anything to show for it.
Shortly before kick-off, Nicky Griffiths' first call as a Jersey
captain was a correct one and enabled him to oblige Bedford to play
down the Goldington Road slope in the first half, against their
Jersey should have started the game in possession after taking
the kick-off, but twice in the opening seven minutes the visitors
failed to secure the ball, enabling Bedford to attack and win
identical penalties for not rolling away, each converted clinically
by the points machine that is James Pritchard.
Jersey had received a chance of their own, for the same offence,
and Bedford old boy Ross Broadfoot slotted it to keep his side in
touch, although an athletic 'Aussie Rules' catch by Blues' Mike
Howard was in contrast to Jersey's muddled efforts at the
The Blues sought to extend their three-point advantage, running
the ball wide whenever possible. Jersey's powerful scrum was kept
under wraps until the 16th minute, and then conceded a free-kick on
its first outing. But the visiting defence was solid - Dave Felton
set the tone with one particularly committed effort, while Ed
Dawson did well to haul down dangerous centre Mark Atkinson.
Bedford were sufficiently rattled to concede kickable penalties,
first for foul play in centre-field, and then when prop Ricky
Reeves failed to heed three requests from the referee to adjust his
positioning at a lineout. Broadfoot slotted both, and with less
than 10 minutes to the break Jersey had a narrow lead.
But Blues gained possession from the restart for the third time
in four attempts and set up the chance to rumble over Jersey's line
from a rolling maul for the game's opening try, hooker Neil
Cochrane touching down.
Jersey were competing well in the 15-a-side game, but by
half-time the Islanders were a man short after yet another yellow
card, maintaining this season's unfortunate average of one per
match. This one seemed harsh - Chris Levesley had done nothing
previously to upset the referee, and seemed to make a reasonable if
unsuccessful attempt to roll away after a tackle. The penalty was
the sixth Jersey had conceded in 40 minutes, which hardly put the
Reds in the realms of serial offenders, but referee Macdonald saw
it differently and Levesley was despatched to the bin, with the
half-time whistle sounding straight after Pritchard had extended
the punishment with a successful penalty to make it 14-9.
While Blues might have preferred to attack downhill after the
break, they also knew that an early score in the opposite direction
could be crucial. However their opening foray ended with a penalty
to Jersey, still down to 14 men, and the chance for Broadfoot to
clear his lines.
This turned out to be a critical moment: with no breeze and the
pitch dipping invitingly down for his powerful left boot, Jersey's
fly-half bit off more than he could chew, and his 60-metre
touch-finder failed to do what it said on the tin. Bedford
counter-attacked with intent, and fly-half Jake Sharp crossed in
A 10-point cushion was a bit more comfortable for the home side,
and just before the hour the lead was extended to 26-9 thanks to
another catch-and-drive try, Cochrane again claiming the try as
well as the assist for his pin-point throw.
Jersey needed to respond quickly, and obtained what looked like
an ideal platform with an attacking scrum. Jon Brennan seemed to be
getting the measure of Reeves at the set-piece, but Jersey's rhythm
was disrupted when replacement Dan Seal was introduced and the new
man won a penalty.
But the visitors continued to press and good work by Tom Cooper
and the most impactful of Jersey's replacements, Fred Silcock,
brought a chance for Griffiths to pluck a scoring pass from below
his knees and scuttle over.
Blues scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal had been one of his team's
most dangerous runners, but his replacement by Luke Baldwin didn't
diminish the threat - the new man spotted an opening outside
another replacement, Jersey's Charlie Clare, and exploited the
mis-match in pace to streak into the gap and set up the bonus point
score for Atkinson.
Both sides' quest for bonus points was now over: Bedford's
mission accomplished; Jersey's out of reach. Each team scored a
further try, Ben Gulliver rounding off a galloping Blues' attack
while Guy Thompson crossed in the final phase. The score by
Jersey's energetic number 8 trimmed the margin of defeat to 17
points, which was no disgrace but also reminded his team that an
opportunity may have been missed.
Jersey, sponsored by Locate Jersey and
Forwards: Richard Barrington, Dave Felton, Jon Brennan,
Nathan Hannay, Dave Markham, Kingsley Lang, Joe Buckle, Guy
Thompson. Half-backs: Nicky Griffiths (capt), Ross
Broadfoot. Backs: Chris Levesley (YC 40+1), Tom Cooper,
Max Stelling, Ed Dawson, Michael Le Bourgeois.
Replacements: Sean McCarthy for Barrington (47 mins),
Charlie Clare for Felton (47), Fred Silcock for Buckle (55), James
Gethings for Brennan (64), Ashley Maggs for Levesley (67), Talite
Vaioleti for Lang (72). Not used: Dave McCormack.
Bedford: Ricky Reeves, Neil Cochrane, Ben
Cooper, Mike Howard, Ben Gulliver, Gregor Gillanders, Tom Armes,
Don Barrell, Darryl Veenendaal, Jake Sharp, Josh Bassett, Mark
Atkinson, Ollie Dodge, James Stephenson, James Pritchard (capt).
Replacements (all used): Chris Locke, Dan Seal, Phil
Boulton, Joe Vandermolen, Darren Fox, Luke Baldwin, Brendan
Referee: Greg Macdonald
Kickers: Pritchard (Bedford) 5 from 7; Sharp
(Bedford) 0 from 1; Broadfoot (Jersey) 4 from 6
Tries:Cochrane 34, 56, Sharp 46, Atkinson 73, Gulliver 78
Conversions:Pritchard 57, 74
Penalties:Pritchard 3, 7, 40+2
Tries:Griffiths 66, Thompson 80+3
Penalties:Broadfoot 5, 26, 32
Pics by kind permission Nigel Rudgard Photography (click for
18 May 2023
DoR pays tribute to leaving players after title-winning season