If the rugby purists out there thought a London Irish victory was a given, then they were in for a rude awakening as a spirited Bedford Blues outfit, backed by a buoyant Goldington Road crowd, were narrowly beaten 30-23 in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Underlining their pedigree as Championship contenders, Bedford pushed Irish all the way in a pulsating contest which ultimately ended in a bonus-point triumph for Nick Kennedy’s men.
Tries from Ben Franks, Johnny Williams, Topsy Ojo and Max Northcote-Green secured maximum points for the Exiles, who now gear-up for the visit of Ealing Trailfinders next weekend.
Bedford struck the first blow on 10 minutes courtesy of a try from Pat Tapley, the winger intercepting a wayward offload to race 80 metres to touchdown. This was after Irish’s Tommy Bell and Blues’ Myles Dorrian had traded penalties in the opening exchanges. Dorrian failed to convert Tapley’s score and Bedford had their tails up at 8-3. Dorrian extended the hosts’ lead to 11-3 moments later with an exquisite penalty from the touchline. The Bedford fly-half had the chance to repeat the trick on 24 minutes from similar range, but this time his effort skewed wide of the upright.
11-3 in front with half-time looming, Bedford were reduced to 14-men when Josh Buggea was sin-binned for infringing at the ruck. Irish took full advantage of the extra man and went into the break leading thanks to a quick-fire double from Franks and Williams.
Franks crossed over on 36 minutes, Bedford unable to live with the Exiles’ sheer brute strength at the maul, before Williams got his season up and running with a try on the stroke of half-time. The England Under-20 international latched onto Ben Ransom’s neat dab into the corner to give his side a 15-11 half-time lead.
Irish came out for the second period in determined mood, and increased the margin to 22-11 on 45 minutes thanks to Ojo. Ransom, who was dual registered with Bedford during his stint with Saracens, was the catalyst with a clean break through the heart of the visitors’ defensive line. Ransom was hauled down just short of the try line and the ball was switched to Ojo on the far side for the Exiles’ third score of the game. Bell’s expert conversion from the touchline put some daylight between themselves and the Blues.
Despite Irish taking full control of proceedings in the early stages of the second half, Bedford fought back, aided by the extra man as David Paice was yellow-carded for an altercation at the ruck. Two Bedford tries in a frantic four minute spell gave the Blues a well-earned 23-22 lead. Hooker George Edgson touched down on 50 minutes, prior to Tapley bagging his brace for the afternoon.
Irish were back in front on the hour mark by virtue of a Bell penalty, the summer recruit from Leicester Tigers demonstrating his expertise with the boot. The Exiles made sure of victory five minutes from time when Northcote-Green pounced on a loose-ball to sprint 30 metres to stretch over the line despite the attention of three would-be tacklers.
London Irish welcome Ealing Trailfinders to the Madejski Stadium next weekend, Sunday 25th September (K.O 3pm) for Round 4 of the IPA Greene King Championship. Click here to buy online or call 0118 968 1016.
Tries: Tapley (2) Edgson
Pens: Dorrian (2)
Sin-bin: Buggea (34’)
Tries: Franks, Williams, Ojo, Northcote-Green
Conversions: Bell (2)
Pens: Bell (2)
Sin-bin: David Paice (50')
Bedford Blues: 15 Elliot Clement-Hill, 14 Pat Tapley, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois (c), 11 Dean Anderson, 10 Myles Dorian (Jake Sharp, 48), 9 Tom James (Jordan Burns, 48), 1 Hayden Thompson-Stringer (Jack Culverhouse, 65), 2 George Edgson, 3 Christian Judge (Spelman, 40), 4 Will Carrick-Smith, 5 Ed Taylor (Mike Howard, 48), 6 Jason Hill, 7 Josh Buggea, 8 Ben Adams (Justin Blanchet, 61)
Replacements: 16 Sam James, 17 Jack Culverhouse, 18 Dave Spelman, 19 Mike Howard, 20 Justin Blanchet, 21 Jordan Burns, 22 Jake Sharp
London Irish: 15 James Marshall, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Tom Fowlie (Aseli Tikoirotuma, 65), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ben Ransom, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Darren Allinson (Scott Steele, 56), 1 Tom Court (Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 62), 2 David Paice (c) (Gerard Ellis, 75), 3 Ben Franks (Richard Palframan, 75), 4 George Robson, 5 Jerry Sexton (Will Lloyd, 62), 6 Joe Trayfoot, 7 Conor Gilsenan (Max Northcote-Green, 70), 8 Ofisa Treviranus
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Richard Palframan, 18 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Aseli Tikoirotuma
Referee: Greg MacDonald