Jersey Reds produced a clinical and powerful display to claim a win at Goldington Road, frustrating a home side whose indiscipline saw them playing with 12 men for a spell in the second half.
After successive losses to Saracens and Richmond it was an important four points to kick-start the season for Harvey Biljon’s side, whose discipline and accuracy were unrecognisable from their opening brace of league outings. After conceding penalties regularly against Saracens and Richmond it was the Blues whose discipline was in the spotlight, with three yellow cards and an estimated penalty count of 19-10 against them.
Although he started the game in unfortunate fashion, sending the kick-off over the dead-ball line in a strong wind, Reds’ fly-half Brendan Cope was striking the ball well from the tee and gave his side the lead with a 12th-minute penalty.
The Reds were beginning to dominate as a result of some determined attacking drives and the inability of the Blues to defend without conceding penalties. Eventually, after a warning, Joe Wrafter was sin-binned and a Red maul powered over the line, with Ciaran Parker touching down and the try possibly saving the hosts from the loss of another player to the bin.
Cope converted, but his opposite number Tommy Matthews was the next to line up a shot at goal after two offside decisions against the Reds after the restart, slotting a straightforward penalty.
The hosts ended up in credit from the sin-bin period thanks to a stunning try created by Reuben Bird-Tulloch. The centre broke out of his 22, eluding several would-be tacklers and hared upfield before finding Ryan Olowofela for the sprint to the line.
Worse was to come for the visitors when the Blues worked the ball to the left flank near halfway and Matt Worley raced up the wing before finding Rich Lane for a canter to the posts, with Thomas converting (17-10).
The Reds reacted well to the double setback and struck twice in the closing stages of the half to retake the lead. Jack Macfarlane crossed from another maul, with Cope converting, and then with the last kick the fly-half slotted a penalty.
The second half was a contrasting affair with the visitors dominating possession and territory, in spite of the home side in their preferred home mode of attacking down the slope.
Cope missed a penalty around 10 minutes after the resumption, but the key factor was the impact at the scrum after Jack Higgins came on to make his Jersey debut and forced a series of penalties from the under-pressure home front row.
Higgins’ massive impact led to two more yellow cards for Blues’ props, with Ed Prowse and Rob Hardwick despatched to the sin-bin – this led to uncontested scrums which meant under the laws – once these had been exhaustively checked – the game moved to uncontested scrums, with the home sides obliged to ‘lose’ another man and play with 12 until Prowse was able to return.
Although they defended gamely with their drastically reduced contingent, the Blues’ defence was eventually breached as the Reds pressed forward with determination and accuracy, which eventually saw loan signing Darren Atkins break through and reach the try-line.
Although Cope could not add the extras, the Reds continued to control the game, and with barely a minute to go a penalty was kicked to the corner in search of the try bonus point.
Unfortunately the lineout was lost, perhaps the only lost lineout in almost 20 attempts, and this gave the hosts the chance to attack and force a last-gasp penalty, which Will Maisey slotted for a losing bonus point.
The Championship will pause for breath over the Easter weekend before resuming on the weekend of April 10th, when the Reds will take on Doncaster – a designated ‘home’ game that will in fact be staged at their opponents’ Castle Park ground.
Pictures: Claire Jeffrey
Jersey Reds v Bedford Blues (A) – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 4/11, Goldington Road, Saturday March 27th 2021, k-o 1pm
Bedford Blues (15-9, 1-8)
Rich Lane; Ryan Olowofela, Tom Litchfield, Reuben Bird-Tulloch, Matt Worley; Tommy Mathews, Ewan Fenley; Joe Wrafter (YC 20), James Fish, Ed Prowse (YC 55), Oli Curry, Lewis Bean, Ollie Newman, Joe Atkinson, Tui Uru.
Replacements: Jacob Fields, Emmanuel Iyogun, Rob Hardwick (YC 60), Will Carrick Smith, Oli Robinson, James Lennon, Will Maisey, Pat Tapley
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8 * = debut)
Brendan Owen; Tom Williams, Scott Van Breda, Jack Roberts, Darren Atkins; Brendan Cope, James Elliott; Dan Richardson, Jack Macfarlane, Ciaran Parker, Zak Farrance, Macauley Cook, Josh Bainbridge, Lewis Wynne (capt), Max Argyle.
Replacements: George Edgson, Roy Godfrey, Jack Higgins *, Rory Bartle, Kyle Hatherell, Cameron Nordli Kelemeti, Bader Pretorius, Dan Barnes
Tries: Olowofela 27, Lane 33
Conversions: Matthews 27, 33
Penalties: Matthews 25, Maisey 80
Tries: Parker 21, Macfarlane 37, Atkins 64
Conversions: Cope 21, 37
Penalties: Cope 12, 40
Referee: Michael Hudson. Assistants: Simon Park, Michael Woods