Bedford Blues aimed to bounce back from an agonising last-minute defeat at Coventry last week as they hosted Hartpury under the Goldington Road floodlights last night.
There were seven changes from last Saturday’s loss at Butts Park Arena after a mixture of injuries, suspensions and recalls from Northampton Saints forced Mike Rayer’s hand.
Both sides exchanged penalties early on as they adjusted to the windy conditions but with fifteen minutes on the clock, the Blues scored the first try of the game.
Full back, Rich Lane, broke free of two tackles to make a dart on the Hartpury 22 and was the spare man on the wing as he finished off a fast-flowing move for the hosts soon after.
Another penalty apiece kept Bedford’s seven point advantage in place until a moment of madness allowed last week’s hat-trick hero for Hartpury to restore parity.
A long restart from the visitors looked to be simply gathered in by Josh Gillespie, but he spilled it right into the hands of winger Ben Foley who could barely believe his luck as he strolled over the try line.
However, Bedford were not to be perturbed with the half-time whistle approaching, as a wonderful offload from Will Carrick-Smith found the hands of Joe Atkinson who danced around the defence to sprint in under the posts.
Despite the windy weather, Bedford showed signs of their famed flair as they went into the half-time break with a 20-13 lead.
The home side’s confidence continued into the second half, with an early Will Maisey penalty supplemented by a third try for the Blues; a break from James Lennon finished off by hooker James Fish.
Bedford, leading 30-13, looked to be sailing towards their first league victory of the season; Lennon controlling the play from scrum half, with Oli Robinson breaking free on more than one occasion.
However, the visitors in red found a second wind, and two quickfire tries from rolling mauls, first from Nick Selway – his first try for Hartpury – and then Aled Ward reduced the deficit to just five points.
Blues fans watching on from home may have been starting to get fidgety, but a late penalty from Tommy Mathews calmed nerves and sealed a 33-25 win for Bedford.
Hartpury had an opportunity to secure bonus points by virtue of losing by seven points or less but the last kick of the game slid past the posts, as they fell by eight.
The result was a fair one in an entertaining evening of rugby, Bedford’s pace proving too much for a competitive Hartpury side who showed true character in the latter stages of the second half.
Next up for the Blues is a challenging trip to Penzance to face Cornish Pirates next Sunday, who are on a high themselves after beating Saracens in the first weekend of the season.