It may have been a pre-season friendly on paper, but there was little friendly about the first of two ‘Battle of Bedfordshire’ games that took place at Dillingham Park this afternoon.
With the new Championship season beginning in two weeks time, Bedford Blues and Ampthill are facing each other twice in two weeks as warm-up for a competitive season ahead.
Ampthill got the better of the Blues on all three occasions the sides met in 2019/2020, but a new look Bedford squad took the charge to their opponents early on.
Winger Dani Long-Martinez opened the scoring with a try after just three minutes for Mike Rayer’s side but it only took five minutes for Ampthill to respond; Corey Lewis restoring parity.
Despite some big hits from both sides, the attacking play continued with Pat Tapley’s pace proving the difference as his try gave Bedford the lead once more.
A third try gave the Blues some breathing space at half-time, new number eight Tui Uru taking advantage of a numerical advantage following a yellow card for Ampthill’s Austin Wallis.
The cards did not end there, as Bedford’s Oli Curry was shown a red card just before the half-time interval for his part in what the Blues’ twitter feed described as a “commotion”, with the local rivalry reaching boiling point.
Both sides started the second half with 14 men, but it was Bedford who increased their advantage with two quickfire tries from Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas and Ethan Grayson.
Bedford were looking thoroughly comfortable with their 7-31 lead but with fifteen minutes left, Ampthill found their acceleration pedal.
Two tries in three minutes for the Alex Humfrey reduced the deficit to 19-31 and despite Grayson getting on the scoresheet again, Ampthill still wouldn’t give in.
Two more tries, this time from Craig Duncan and Harvey Beaton, reduced Bedford’s lead to just two points but they were able to hold on for an eventful 36-33 victory.
The 32-man Bedford squad looked very good going forward but Mike Rayer will want to stamp out the indiscipline before the start of the season.
The two sides face off again next Saturday – this time at Goldington Road – and while it may be labelled as a friendly, both sides will want positive momentum before their first league fixtures.
The Blues travel to Coventry on 6th March while Ampthill host Doncaster Knights as both teams vie for a spot in the season-ending play-offs in June.