In spite of a much-improved display after the disappointing loss to Richmond, the Reds were unable to return to winning ways on home turf. A Harry Sheppard try with 10 minutes remaining was enough to give Bedford Blues the win in an attritional match.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon said afterwards he felt the game had turned when the officials missed Kieran Hardy being taken out in the 44th minute as the scrum-half was in position to take a scoring pass from Mark Best. The visitors countered immediately and former Red Rich Lane crossed for a try at the other end.
"We had a clear try-scoring opportunity, Kieran Hardy was taken out and seconds later they scored seven points," he said. "It was a much improved display by our players, with really good work in defence and at the breakdown, but there were still moments where our composure and discipline was lacking and Bedford's experienced heads saw them home."
In a first half of few genuine try-scoring opportunities, Blues came closest after a loose ball was hacked forward by Elliot Clements-Hill. The Reds' defence was scrambling and forced to twice concede penalties, but the visitors lost an attacking lineout and then failed to find touch. The half finished 3-3, Sheppard's penalty cancelling out an early drop goal by Brendan Cope.
It seemed at the break as if the quality of the game could only get better, but in the event any improvement was marginal, and the fine conditions gave way to rain during the final 20 minutes.
Jersey began the second period intent on attack; skipper Jake Woolmore and Conor Joyce put Best into space only for the ball to go loose. Bedford countered immediately from their 22 and Lane finished at the other end to put his side in front.
Cope reduced the deficit with a penalty, while the Blues were looking to score from attacking lineouts but were unable to execute. After replacement prop Roy Godfrey finished a catch and drive for the Reds, the winning score came after the Reds were unable to secure clean lineout possession near their own line, the ball was turned over and Sheppard squeezed through a gap to touch down.
The visitors could have added to their points tally after Nick Selway was yellow-carded for his side's persistent offending, but in the end Blues were happy to kick the ball out and take the win.
"We showed a lot of resolve to come back and win - it was a game we would probably have lost last season," said Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer. "It was an average match that turned into a bit of an arm wrestle, and we had a bucket-full of opportunities, but I'm really pleased to get the win."
pic: David Goodenough
JERSEY REDS: Cope; Pincus, Best, Ma'afu, Worrall (Saunders 79); Bryant, Hardy (Dudley 71); Woolmore (c) (Godfrey 60), Saunders (Selway 51, YC 77), Armstrong (Atalifo 51), Voss (McKern 58), Sexton, Rogerson, Joyce (Bartle 71), Pitman. Unused replacement: Abrahams
BEDFORD BLUES: Czekaj; Clements-Hill, Lane, Le Bourgeois (c), Adamson; Sheppard, Burns (Dickson 51); McCarthy (Parilli-Ocampo 51), Lindsay (Edgson 59), Penny (Cooper 51), Taylor (Onojaife 51), Carrick-Smith, Rae, Adams, Williams
Unused replacements: Tupai, Hutler
REFEREE: Tim Wigglesworth. Assistants: Clare Daniels, Bill Burton
Half Time: 3-3
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Rubis): Matt Rogerson (Jersey Reds)
Try: Godfrey 66
Conversion: Cope 66
Penalty: Cope 49
Drop goal: Cope 9
Tries: Lane 44, Sheppard 70
Conversion: Sheppard 44
Penalty: Sheppard 29
03 Feb 2023
Home side look to improve poor record over London rivals