Goldington Road awaits as Bedford trail the Pirates by a single point

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Image: Claire Jones

After seeing off Nottingham with ease last weekend, the challenge went up a notch in the pursuit of cup glory as Bedford Blues travelled to Penzance to face Cornish Pirates yesterday in the quarter finals.

The Pirates, who finished third in the Championship table, gained a spot in the quarter-final courtesy of being one of the two “best losers” after narrowly losing out to Doncaster Knights in the first round.

Mike Rayer made seven changes from the comfortable 52-19 victory against Nottingham with five new faces in the pack including Joe Atkinson who returned from injury.

George Hendy and Joel Matavesi were the other two changes as the Blues looked to avenge a double league defeat in the past season with victory at The Mennaye.

See saw affair leaves tie in the balance

Bedford Blues have secured some shock victories on the road this season; not least against champions Ealing Trailfinders and this see-saw game looked to be adding to their tally.

While Will Maisey opened the scoring with a penalty, the hosts took control early on with two tries from Tom Channon and Nico De Battista to give the Pirates a 14-3 lead.

A Jordan Onojaife try reduced the deficit to four points but Tommy Wyatt responded with a try of his own for the hosts who were looking to keep their adventurous opponents at arms length.

The first half however was dominated by Mike Rayer’s side; Alex Day bundling over before a controversial knock-on call from the referee stopped Dean Adamson adding to his monstrous try count moments later.

Bedford did go into the shed with a half-time lead though; Matt Worley picking off a long Pirates pass to stroll in under the posts to give his side a 24-21 half-time lead.

The second half saw more of the same as Bedford opened up a ten point lead thanks to Joey Conway darting through a gap from the lineout, before Maisey extended the margin to thirteen with a penalty.

The Pirates’ Matt Bolwell was then sent to the sin bin for ten minutes and with the ever-consistent Will Maisey adding more points with his trusty left foot; the tie looked to be escaping from the grasp of the favourites.

Pirates ride the storm to fight back

While many teams would have capitulated, there is a reason why Cornish Pirates were involved in a title battle, and their quality shone through in the final twenty minutes.

Once restored to a full quota of fifteen, they fought back admirably to steal the tie by a single point; with former Ampthill hooker Syd Blackmore beginning the recovery on the hour mark.

Carwyn Penny then crashed over with ten minutes to go and despite some breakaways from Matavesi and Worley, Bedford could not find their opponents try line to give themselves an advantage.

It would come back to bite them, as Bolwell made amends for his earlier indiscretions by dotting down from the driving maul and with Andre Robson kicking the extras, Cornish Pirates had stolen the game 38-37.

In normal times, a last minute loss would have been a heart breaker, but in the context of a two-legged tie, the ascendency may well be with Bedford Blues as they welcome their opponents to Goldington Road on Saturday.

Will Maisey, once again a calming influence from fly-half, was understandably bullish following the last minute loss:

“In the last twenty minutes, we gave away far too many penalties and realistically we should have come away with the win.

“There are plenty of positives to take out of today; scoring four tries against the Pirates is no mean feat. It proves we can get there, but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels next week.”

It was a fair assessment of what was an excellent cup tie and it is all to play for at Goldington Road on Saturday on Ladies Day with Mike Rayer’s side looking to the Blues army to see them over the line.

Tickets are available for Ladies Day at Goldington Road on 7th May here.

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