Blues and Bears put on a show in entertaining Friday night lights

Bedford Blues against Bristol Bears in friendly action at Goldington Road in March 2024
Image: Claire Jones / 'X'

Bristol Bears scored eight tries and Bedford Blues, five in a cracking affair at Goldington Road which Bristol Bears won 54-33 on a special edition of the Friday night lights.

A crowd of over 3,000 packed into Goldington Road to once again welcome Premiership opposition in Bristol Bears and both teams put on a points fest in a friendly encounter that benefitted both sides.

This weekend was supposed to be against Jersey Reds, but became a free weekend after the Channel Islanders’ collapse before the season started, and with Mike Rayer keen to avoid another blank week, Pat Lam’s Bristol side came to the rescue.

A strong Bristol Bears line-up was always going to provide a stiff challenge for the Blues and so it proved as from the off, the Premiership side set about the Bedford try line.

A handling error straight away gifted the Bears possession and after patient build up play from Pat Lam’s men, Steven Luatua bundled over to give Bristol an early 7-0 lead.

The Blues hit back immediately as James Lennon found the whitewash outside the Burrows to make it 7-5, and to their credit, the Blues were showing far more proficiency in the early stages compared to recent weeks.

They couldn’t keep out Bristol for long though as Noah Heward found himself as the spare man on the left wing to stroll in a simple try on the twenty minute mark to extend the Bears’ advantage.

Kieran Marmion scored a third try soon after – despite strong suspicions of a forward pass in the build-up – and in the blink of an eye, Bristol led 21-5.

Kieran Marmion scoring a try for Bristol at Bedford Blues
Kieran Marmion with Bristol’s third try Image: Claire Jones / ‘X’

Bears show their class

When Gabriel Ibitoye flew over for the away side’s fourth try – and the imaginary bonus point – it felt a long way back for a Bedford side who were trying to play in their unique style but were slowly getting picked off.

Mike Rayer’s side ended the first half well, with plenty of territory and some exciting rugby but it was Bristol who scored next as Ibitoye collected a cute kick in front of the posts to dot down for his second, and Bristol’s fifth.

Bedford gained a well-deserved second try of the game thanks to some quick thinking from Matt Worley and when Grimoldby’s conversion sailed over, the half-time score was 35-12 to the away team.

It felt a tad harsh on the Blues, who hadn’t played badly at all, even if there was the occasionally odd error, but the Premiership quality of the Bears had shone through as they opened up a sizable first half advantage.

Bristol Bears at Bedford Blues in March 2024
The Bristol attack was at its clinical best Image: Claire Jones / ‘X’

All change for second half

Half-time brought a host of changes for both sides, including the emergence of Rich Lane for Bristol, and he provided the assist for the away side’s sixth try that came within two minutes of the restart for Deago Bailey, followed swiftly by another for another former Bedford man, Piers O’Conor.

Jake Garside sent the home stands into raptures as he found himself in acres of space on the left wing in collecting a wayward kick to give the Bedford fans something to cheer on 47 minutes, and the speedster almost had another only for Alex Day’s final pass to go sailing over his head.

Dean Adamson in action for Bristol Bears at Goldington Road in March 2024
Dean Adamson for the Blues Image: Claire Jones / ‘X’

The tries kept coming as Sam Worsley extended Bristol’s lead before Ewan Baker was on the end of a neat Maisey kick to hit back for Bedford.

Garside was then at the double on the left wing as the scoreboard ballooned past the eighty point mark in this hugely entertaining affair, with Bristol taking a 54-33 victory.

There were plenty of positives to take from the performance for Mike Rayer and his coaching team. With eight games in the next nine weeks, the Blues needed to find some momentum and they have arguably done so with a decent showing.

Bristol came with a strong starting line-up and showed their obvious quality, but Bedford put on a show of their own and stood their ground in the face of full-time opposition.

Bristol Bears will head back to the south west looking to improve on their current eighth place standing in the Premiership, while the Blues look ahead to a trip to Cambridge next Saturday in a double header that includes Bedford Blues Women playing on the same day.

Ealing may well be coasting towards another Championship title, but the race for second place is hot and Bedford Blues will look to get back to competitive winning ways with a victory over the league’s new boys.

Tickets are still available for both men’s and women’s clashes while the Bedford Rugby Followers Association continue their special offer of a £10 seat on the coach to enjoy what will be an historic occasion for the Blues.

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