Bedford put on an excellent display in the late summer sunshine to beat Harrow 36-17.
The home side scored five tries to Harrowâ€™s three to win an excellent game, in which both sides looked to take advantage of the sunny conditions and dry ground by looking to use their hands and put plenty of width on the ball.
In front of a gaggle of both club and international scouts this was certainly a game to perform in, something that many players did, particularly Bedfordâ€™s number 8 Ollie Lyons. Lyons really came into his own as the game moved into the second half, the halftime tactical changes had seen the game tighten up a little more and Harrow at one point looked as though they might come back into it, however a crucial turnover and later a try from Lyons really typified his performance and helped to secure his teams position.
The game had started at a lightening pace though with Bedford taking the early initiative and threatening the Harrow line. Harrow managed to keep them out but only through stepping offside and inevitably they soon suffered a sin binning as a result.
That gave Bedford the space that with their handling they were always going to exploit, and after electing to take quick penalties rather than the points on offer they soon scored on the right wing, the conversion failed after the ball wobbled on the tee (something that proved problematic all afternoon), but a 5-0 lead was no less than Bedford deserved.
It was not to last long though; from the restart Harrow won a kickable penalty, Owain James missed but from the resultant 22 he fielded the ball, spreading it quickly through the hands as Harrow showed off some fantastic handling and support play to send their left winger over in the corner, a quite breathtaking try.
James converted to give Harrow the lead but again the lead was only to be for seconds as Bedford forced their way into the Harrow 22. Their play lead to a Harrow scrum but excellent, and typically scrum half like, work at the base of the scrum saw the Bedford scrum half somehow wriggle over.
The conversion gave Bedford a 12-7 lead, a lead that was soon extended as Bedfordâ€™s fly half Paddy McDuell, also looking to impress the selectors having previously played for England U16s, excellently charged down and regathered a James kick all in one movement to race away from halfway to score and convert his own try.
That could really have been a moment that killed off Harrow, however they showed an excellent fighting spirit to work their way back into the game with some fine, and very well structured attacking play; sending their forwards around the corner before flashing the ball out to the backs.
The tactic soon paid off as their right winger was sent blazing through, he added some nifty footwork to beat the full back and in a flash was across the line to reduce the deficit to just five points.
Bedford soon scored again through their left wing after some more excellent handling from both forwards and backs to extend their lead to 26-12 at the break.
It was a quite bizarre half of rugby, it seemed almost basketball like in its end to end nature. Both sides were playing with admirable adventure, Harrow using their forwards to punch holes before using their backs, while Bedford were looking to use the full width of the pitch whenever possible, and to put the athletic forwards into space around the 15m channels.
If the first half was open though the second half was a far cagier affair as both sides focused on blunting the attack of the other. It took twenty minutes for the first score, a Bedford penalty, but the action was no less enthralling.
Harrow began to take control of possession and territory, with Jamesâ€™ delightful boot particularly useful in controlling field position, but time looked to be against them as they tried to fight back, whilst Bedfordâ€™s defence was rock solid, with Lyons and his back row colleagues making particularly large dents in the Harrow attack,
However with that type of sustained territory and possession it is usually only a matter of time before a side scores and so it proved here as Harrowâ€™s captain and number 8 charged over from ten metres or so. It was a real captainâ€™s effort, a big powerful try at a point in the game where his side needed it most. The conversion made it 29-17 and suddenly Harrowâ€™s tails were up with the realisation that the game was there for the taking.
It was at this point though that Bedfordâ€™s key players really stood up, McDuell had been exceptional all day but really took control of his side now, while right through the rest of the spine of the team players made sure that they each provided a rallying point.
None more so than the ever modest Lyons, first a crucial turnover earned his side a penalty to enable them to clear their lines, from which the field position enabled them to begin to mount a few sustained attacks of their own for the first time in the half.
Two excellent chances for Bedford went begging before Lyons exploded with some magic to combine excellent footwork pace and power to stride over form the edge of the 22. McDuell converted with ease to make the score 36-17 and give Bedford a comfortable last five minutes of the game to see out.
The game was possibly closer at times than a nineteen point difference suggests but Bedford were certainly the better side on the day, and definitely in those conditions, across the entire side they each possess a brutal combination of power and good handling skills. Indeed it would no be much of a stretch to say that Bedford are probably physically one of the better conditioned sides on the circuit, whilst handling wise they are all incredibly comfortable with the ball in hand.
Their style of play certainly made for good viewing today, something that the many spectators surrounding the excellent Bedford 1st XV pitch would all agree with.
Final Score: Bedford 36-17 Harrow
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