Bedford continued their defence of the NatWest Champions Trophy with a dramatic last-gasp victory at St Paul’s School.
The champions had to dig deep and show a real strength of character in order to get the win after being on the back foot of a tight game for long periods of the match.
Number 8 Ryan Hussey was the match winner for Bedford as he bulldozed his way over from a yard out following some strong pressure from the away side. The charge was led though by scrum half Jack Dalton, who seemed to grab his side by scruff of the neck in the last fifteen minutes, making several darting runs that put this spirited St Paul’s side on the back foot.
It was far from a vintage Bedford performance, and St Paul’s will feel that they had more than just a chance of winning this, but it is the mark of a cup winning side to be able to win these tight games – especially when not at your best.
It actually looked like we were going to be in for a stunning display of classic Bedford running rugby when the opened the scoring with the game barely two minutes old. It was a stunning try, start by a neat interchange by captain Fraser Dingwall and full back Edward Johnson following a St Paul’s clearance kick.
They moved the ball from on the left hand side on their 22 to the halfway line on the right hand side with some slick passing and running between the two of them, before putting the ball through a few pairs of hands, eventually releasing William Bowes to score a stunning try from 40 metres out.
It was sensational rugby, and having come so early in the game you feared for St Paul’s. However this St Paul’s side does not need anyone worrying about them, they dug unbelievably deep, showing plenty of character and determination to force Bedford onto the back foot for almost the entirety of the rest of the first half.
That pressure yielded them two penalties, with they landed with consummate ease to take a well earned 6-5 lead into the break. A game that had started off looking like a potential landslide in favour of Bedford was not a dogfight that was being edged by St Paul’s.
Perhaps the key moment, besides the late try, came at the death of the first half as St Paul’s battered away at the Bedford line but the men in red simply refused to concede, despite being on the ropes. Often these games come down to the finest margins, perhaps in a snapshot that was it. When the pressure came down on their own line, Bedford stayed strong, and when it came down on the opposition’s line, Bedford managed to breach the whitewash. Fine margins, but game winning margins.
It did not seem that way at the start of the second half though as St Paul’s started from where they had left off, on the ascendancy. However twelve minutes in Bedford managed to break upfield and secure a penalty against the run of play. Dingwall duly landed it, and five minutes later he was at it again, giving his team an 11-6 lead.
Again you though this might be where Bedford pull away, but this determined St Paul’s side refused to back down. They had lost two great players in their fullback and hooker, but still they kept making their tackles and carrying with serious determination. At tighthead and openside flanker they had two of the game’s outstanding players, while their half backs were sizzling.
Their scrum half in particular, who, like Bedford’s, seemed to grow in stature and influence as the game wore on. He was rewarded soon after Bedford’s second penalty as he crossed for a glorious try, a sniping, quick-footed, pacey effort from fully thirty yards up the middle of the pitch that was as near to a classical scrum halves try as anyone will see.
With a big crowd now gathered in Barnes, the noise levels were suddenly rattling the windows and St Paul’s seemed to be growing in confidence with every additional spectator.
Bedford had now seized the ascendancy in terms of field position though, however luck seemed to be on St Paul’s side, as well as glorious determination as Dingwall hit the post for Bedford with a penalty and was then held up after a glorious break. Momentum was with Bedford, but St Paul’s seemed so fired up that they looked like a side that simply did not believe they would concede.
Credit to Bedford though, they kept calm and composed and retained their belief that eventually the white wall would crack. They had to wait for it, boy did they have to wait for it, but crack it did with no time left on the clock.
Wave after wave of attack brought Bedford to within inches of the line, and when Hussey spotted space behind the ruck he simply picked the ball up and drove over for the decisive try. Dingwall’s conversion slid just wide but it was irrelevant, Bedford had secured the win and survived an almighty scare against a superb St Paul’s side who must take great credit at the end of this game.
Bedford will not have it easy in the next round either, they are drawn at home to the winner of tomorrow’s game between Canford and Kingswood. They will fancy their chances though, for the defending champions showed the sort of spirit and tenacity that all of the very best side possess.
Full Time: St Paul’s 13-16 Bedford
You can see photos from the game on our Facebook Page here: Gallery – St Paul’s v Bedford
Champions Trophy quarter final draw:
Bedford v Canford/Kingswood
Oakham v Monmouth
Epsom College v Blundell’s
Eton College v Tonbridge