Bedford secured a place in the Champions Trophy final with a stunning comeback against Sedbergh, securing a 27-24 victory in Cumbria.
It was truly a sensational game of schools rugby, played between what are undoubtedly two of the very best teams in the entire country. On the evidence of their semi final, it was clear why these two schools site in first and third in the Daily Mail Trophy table.
In distinctly autumnal conditions, with puddles on the pitch, howling wing, and rapidly fading light, the handling was outstanding, the kicking expert, and the commitment bone-crunching from both sides. It truly was a spirited display from both sides.
Ultimately it was Bedford who won this epic battle though, the lead changed hands five times through the course of the match, but the sense was that Bedford were playing just that bit better, bar a stunning opening fifteen minutes of the second half from Sedbergh.
After 43 minutes of the game, Sedbergh led 24-15 thanks to two Ali Crossdale pieces of magic, a driving score from Ed Irons, and a sharp finish from wing Will Lewin after more Crossdale wizardry down the right hand side.
However a stunning Bedford comeback in the final fifteen minutes, punctuated by passionate scores from Fraser Dingwall and Fraser Strachan, adding to Adewale and Carter’s earlier scores, seized their place at Allianz Park for the final.
Bedford had looked on top in the first half, with their back row of Simon Beal, Charlie Clarke, and in particular Jake Carter at number 8, getting through an incredible amount of work.
However it was Sedbergh who went in with a 14-8 half time lead. Will Lewin’s score putting them ahead a minute or so before the break after Bedford had taken an earl lead through an Oli Burgess penalty before a wiggle of Crossdale’s hips had earned him a score to turn the tide the home side’s way.
Carter put the away side back in front though after a magnificent break from Olabooye, who released full back Fraser Dingwall, who in turn offloaded to Carter to stretch over and score, putting his side 8-7 ahead. However that Lewin score gave Sedbergh that crucial half time advantage.
The tit for tat nature of the game looked set to continue in the second half as within seconds Bedford winger Tune Adewale nabbed an interception and raced away to put his side back in front by a point.
This was when Sedbergh really turned to the style though. Or more accurately, this was when they really found a way to dig even deeper, contesting the breakdown ferociously and bruising their way through contact.
It was that sort of abrasive play that brought about the next score as hooker Ed Irons went blasting over from short range. Just two minutes later that lead was then extended as Sedbergh piled on the pressure before some typically neat footwork from Crossdale allowed him the space to sneak over the line, handing his team a 24-15 advantage.
It felt like this perhaps might end up like Sedbergh’s last 16 tie against Radley, where after a close battle for three quarters of the game, they pulled away to reach a big total at the end.
Bedford are made of far too much stern stuff for that, and while Sedbergh were on top at this stage, they dug deep and tightened the game up. Burgess and Dingwall started using their boots to great effect, while scrum half Jack Dalton was a growing influence too.
That tightness meant that the game became scrappier but it did not worry Bedford, who were starting to eke out an advantage, territorially.
The decisive moment came on the 57 minute. Dalton rejected what was an eminently kickable penalty on the Sedbergh 22, right in front of the posts, instead tapping and firing the ball wide. Two phases later, on the left hand side of the field, substitute Strachan went crashing over, rewarding Dalton’s bravery and decision making perfectly.
Still George Cave’s Bedford side had to dig though. The breakdown had become even more competitive as turnovers started to become almost routine for either side, a slippery surface and greasy ball making accuracy in that area of the game just that bit harder.
With eight minutes remaining, Bedford were again awarded a penalty, and opted to head to the corner. Sedbergh controlled the drive well though so Bedford had to break away and run through the phases. What that did though was stretch the defence, and spotting that, Bedford fired the ball out with a couple of passes, allowing Dingwall too squeeze over from short range just next to the posts.
It left Burgess with a simple conversion, and finally gave Bedford the lead again at 27-24. It was a handy lead indeed. With the try count level, Sedbergh had to score a try as a penalty would level the game but still have Bedford going through as the away side.
The remaining six or seven minutes were largely played out in the Sedbergh half, but with possession turning over regularly and dangerous runners on either side, it was unclear what would unfold. Only with the referee’s final whistle could there be any certainty.
In the end it was just about the right result, and was an utterly spellbinding game of schools rugby. Both sides will stand proud afterwards, knowing that they performed outstandingly well and contributed to a superb spectacle for the hundreds at the pitch, and thousands watching on the live stream.
For Sedbergh, the Daily Mail Trophy remains a real prospect, a game against Kirkham Grammar School on Saturday will go a long way towards further cementing that if the win.
Bedford too are in with a shout in that competition, but their focus will firmly be on Allianz Park on the 25th November, where they will face a strong Epsom College side who beat Blundell’s 27-23 in another stunning game of schools rugby, you can see our report, plus highlights, here: Epsom College v Blundell’s.
It was, simply, an outstanding afternoon of rugby.
Full Time: Sedbergh 24-27 Bedford
|John Statham||1||George Cave|
|Ed Irons (1T)||2||William Kerr|
|George Bentley||3||Colston Kane|
|Max Davies||4||Phillip Cooper|
|Jack Bonham||5||David Hickey|
|Hayden Thompson-Green||6||Simon Beal|
|James Botham||7||Charlie Clarke|
|Sam Moore||8||Jake Carter (1T)|
|Charlie Gowling||9||Jack Dalton|
|Alistair Crossdale (2T, 2C)||10||Oliver Burgess (1P, 2C)|
|Jonny Keh||11||Tune Adewale (1T)|
|Kyle Kitney||12||Nick Cowen|
|Michael Lavery||13||Shay Boyd|
|Will Lewin (1T)||14||Faysal Olabooye|
|George Phelan||15||Fraser Dingwall (1T)|
|Theo Smith||16||William Bowes|
|Matthew Addison||17||Joseph Rogers|
|Will Hill||18||Fraser Strachan (1T)|
|Will Ballard||19||William Entwistle|
|Harry Laidler||20||Alexander Dennis|
|Robbie Thomson||21||Oliver Hind|
|Tom Savage||22||Euan Weed|
|Simon Mulholland||Barry Burgess|