Bedford stormed through to the Champions Trophy semi finals with a 26-5 victory over a Sherborne side who have been gathering some serious momentum of late.
Under a torrent of rain in the East Midlands, Bedford stuck to their usual game plan of putting width on the ball and getting their big back row players out in the wide channels. It worked an absolute treat against an injury ravaged Sherborne side as Bedford scored to early tries before the worst of the rain came, leaving Sherborne with an increasingly difficult task to stay in the tournament.
Bedford were clearly looking for a fast start against a Sherborne side that had beaten Wellington College at the weekend. After a result like that, they needed to have any momentum carried over form the weekend to be quashed as soon as possible. That hope for a fast start was evident after six minutes as Bedford took a tap penalty from a very kickable penalty, catching a tired Sherborne side off guard to go over in the corner and opening up a 7-0 lead.
Five minutes later they conjured another score, using great width to force their way into the Sherborne 22 with a move that began in their own half before rumbling over in the left hand corner to go 12-0 up.
It was at this point that the heavens really opened, and suddenly the value of a twelve point lead almost doubled as it became clear that this was going to be a game about field position, abrasion, and patience. It was not ideal for Sherborne then when their number 8, and captain on the day, was forced from the field with injury, adding to the loss of their inside centre and usual captain who was not fit enough to start. It was one of seven big injuries for them, and that loss of leadership in such a tactical game was to be crucial.
Bedford too had their own injury problems, but tactically they were spot on. They managed to balance looking for field position with that outstanding desire to spread the ball into the wide channels that all Barry Burgess Bedford 1st XV sides have.
That is not to say that they cannot tuck it up the jumper either though, there are some big men in the Bedford line up and if needs be they can truck it up with the best of them.
Almost out of the blue a third try came Bedford’s way with around five minutes left in the half as they released their man down the right wing after some tidy phase play.
It felt like a bit of a killer blow, but Sherborne responded sensibly, recognising that there was plenty of time on the clock. They tried to play the percentage game, looking to kick to the corners and play for territory.
Bedford were brilliant in their kick receiving though. Aware of the conditions they flooded the back field with players, meaning that every time Sherborne put the ball into touch, Bedford could take a quick lineout and get their kick return in.
It was not that the Sherborne kick chase was poor, just that Bedford were so busy in the backfield and so fast to react that it was hard to deal with.
That paid dividends right on the stroke of half time as after another bout of kick tennis, the home side eventually forced the visitors into returning the ball down the middle of the field.
Fielding the ball they quickly moved it wide to the left wing, who burst through a couple of tackles before accelerating into the 22, where he was just scragged by the tail of his shirt. With brilliant timing though, he turned to offload to his number 8 who dived in under the hosts for an absolute killer blow of a score, making the half time score 26-0 in his side’s favour.
The reality was that almost no matter what Sherborne did from there, there was no coming back from that kind of half time deficit, not on a day like this with tired bodies and equally tired minds.
Sherborne did respond well though, gaining the upper hand for much of the second half. However it was to Bedford’s great credit that their defence proved to be nearly as formidable as their attack as they conceded just one try in that second half, a brilliantly worked one for Sherborne’s openside, despite sustained Sherborne pressure.
It was a tough day at the office for Sherborne, who will be glad to see the half term break at the weekend, but with their injured players having a chance to rest, they will be a strong force again after the break.
For Bedford this will not have been their prettiest win, but it will certainly be one of the sweetest, and they are in with more than just a shout of winning this competition, their all court game is superb, and with the players they have they can switch between different styles with ease.
They now join Sedbergh, Blundell’s, and Epsom College, who beat Haileybury 52-12 this afternoon, in the Champions Trophy semi finals. What a brilliant couple of games we are due there – anyone could reach the final.
Full Time: Bedford 26-5 Sherborne
You can see photos of the game in our Gallery, as well as links to more on our Facebook Page, just follow this link: Bedford v Sherborne Gallery.
You can see our roundup of the quarter finals here: Champions Trophy quarter finals.