Bedford Blues were looking to extend their promising start to the calendar year as they hosted 4th placed Jersey Reds on a glorious if blustery day at Goldington Road, hoping to put a dent in a highly impressive season so far for the Islanders.
After a scrappy start from both sides, the Reds were the first on the scoresheet with a relatively simple penalty converted by Brendan Cope giving Jersey an early 3-0 lead.
However, the Blues hit back within five minutes as captain Will Hooley aimed a cute kick out to the wing, which was easily collected by Ryan Hutler to dive into the corner.
The action packed beginning didn’t end there, as Hutler’s counterpart on the wing scored a try of his own; Alex Morgan diving in under the posts to give Jersey a 10-5 lead with 15 minutes gone.
That lead was extended not long after, when Sam Leeming’s kick from the 22 was charged down by Rory Bartle and despite some staunch emergency defending, Jake Upfield bundled over to give the Reds a 15-5 lead.
A second penalty for the Islanders extended that lead to 18-5 but the Blues continued to try and increase the tempo and unsettle the Reds pack. However, indiscipline was beginning to creep in; any sniff of the try line interrupted by the referee’s whistle.
A succession of penalties for the Blues led to their second try; a line out five yards from the try line giving a straight forward touch down for Grayson Hart and with Hooley creeping a conversion just over the posts, the Reds’ lead was reduced to six points.
As the half-time whistle approached, Bedford piled on the pressure with a series of five-metre scrums and despite Jersey attempting to disrupt the Blues’ progress by any means possible, Jordan Onojaife eventually touched down for a try.
With Hooley missing the conversion, Bedford went into the break a single point behind at 18-17 but with all the momentum with the Blues – and the wind in the second half – Mike Rayer’s men would have been confident at the interval.
As that wind predictably died down, it was the Reds who were the first on the scoresheet after 50 minutes, a line out deep in the 22 leaving Cope to grubber through to Greg Dyer who dived in under the posts. Cope converted, as Jersey extended their lead to 25-17.
The Blues continued to try and keep up the tempo and the flair, with Matt Worley a splash of paint away from running into the corner, denied by the touch judge’s flag as he attempted to collect a Hutler kick with a little under an hour on the clock.
The second half continued to be stop-start; the referee’s whistle working overtime as the sides traded scrums and penalties in an effort to gain territory but with the clock ticking down, Bedford were unable to assert any authority.
Bedford got to within 5 points late on as Will Hooley nailed a penalty from 40 yards out, and with the raucous crowd growing in noise, the Blues piled on the pressure as the clock neared 80 minutes.
A series of penalties followed, and with the tension rising with each one, Bedford kept their cool as the Reds’ defence could hold no more. Huw Worthington crashed over the try line; and more importantly near the posts as Will Hooley secured the last gasp victory with a simple conversion, giving Bedford a deserved win.
That last kick of the game meant the scoreline finished 27-25, continuing their good form in 2020 as they work their way up the league table.
The games come thick and fast into February, with the Blues’ next game just six days away as they host Coventry under the lights at Goldington Road next Friday night, and with confidence restored, Rayer’s men will be looking to continue their winning ways.