Bedford Blues took a 24-point advantage into this afternoon’s Championship Cup first round tie against Nottingham at Goldington Road, knowing a solid and professional performance would see them through to the quarter finals.
Mike Rayer made a raft of changes – eight in all – as Joe Atkinson, who is retiring at the end of the season, missed out with Will Maisey taking the captain’s armband, along with seven other changes made from the first leg.
Nottingham had quite the task to overturn a 38-14 deficit from the first match at Lady Bay, but it was their nemesis, Dean Adamson who made their task even more difficult with a try inside the first three minutes.
An early penalty led to impressive territory and the ball was worked out wide from the lineout with ease for Adamson to run in his 101st try in Blues colours.
Five minutes later, the try count was doubled; Will Maisey’s grubber kick collected by Ethan Grayson who dived in under the posts and the scoreline was 14-0 before Nottingham could even blink.
Nottingham hit back with a try of their own through Harry Graham but only the most optimistic of Archers fan would have wished that was the start of a heroic comeback and so it proved as James Fish scored soon after for Bedford.
Further tries for Matt Worley and Oisin Heffernan extended Bedford’s lead further and with only half an hour gone, the Blues had notched up five tries, exploiting the gaps in the visitors’ defence to the maximum.
To their credit, Nottingham continued to try and run the ball and their efforts were rewarded with a smart try from Michael Stronge on the brink of half-time.
However, the referee had the final say of a hectic first half, awarding Bedford a penalty try and at 40-12 down in the leg, the tie was all but over at the interval for Nottingham.
Serene second half as Blues canter home
The second half began uncharacteristically slowly as a host of changes were made by both sides but it was Elliott Bale who bundled over for Nottingham to give the hosts the first score of the second forty minutes.
With an hour on the clock, and the tie looking like it was strolling towards a pedestrian end, Nottingham lock Callum Allen was sent to the sin bin and Oli Stedman touched down from the resulting penalty to restore a 45-19 lead for Bedford.
The half century was reached thanks to a Jack Hughes try, and a second sin-bin for Nottingham only compounded the misery for the visitors; replacement prop Toby Williams sent for an early bath.
The final moments were understandably scrappy with both teams trying to add to their try count, but the 52-19 final scoreline was befitting of a dominant Bedford performance; akin to that of a fortnight ago.
The Blues won 90-33 on aggregate, running in eleven tries across both legs, asserting their superiority in both as they coast through to the Championship Cup quarter finals.
Bedford Blues go on to face Cornish Pirates in a tough quarter final, with the Penzance side qualifying courtesy of securing one of two “best loser” spots after falling ten points short against Doncaster Knights.
The first leg will take place next weekend on Saturday 30th April, with the second leg following on 7th May at Goldington Road, while the semi-final and final are one-legged affairs.