Leaders eventually come good...

GKIPA Championship

Bristol 18 Bedford Blues 13

Bristol, the Greene King IPA Championship leaders, were given an almighty scare by fourth-placed Bedford Blues who led for sixty minutes at Ashton Gate and looked on course to send their hosts to their first League defeat of the season.

But tries from Luke Morahan and Nick Haining plus a conversion and two penalties from Ian Madigan saved the day while the visitors replied through a Dean Adamson try with Will Hooley adding the extras and two penalties.

“On reflection, I think we deserved the win but there is no doubt Bedford put us under pressure,” admitted Head Coach, Pat Lam. “In the context of the season, sometimes you need games like this and we will learn a lot from it because it gave us a real test.

“Ultimately this scrum is the defining point of rugby versus any other game – it is the only game that has that battle. The thing I like about the scores is that you have to be as one; everyone has to be on the same page and everyone has to do their bit.”

Bristol’s replacement hooker Ross MacMillan had to be helped from the field in the closing stages with a dislocated wrist which will only add to the club’s front row injury worries which has led to the loan signing of James Lay from the Bay of plenty.

Bedford dominated the early stages and showed that they weren’t going to be phased by their hosts. It was the visitors who were the first on the scoreboard after Bristol lock Chris Vui was yellow carded at the visitors driving maul.

The Blues were then held-up twice over the line and, playing advantage, they moved the ball wide for wing Adamson to touchdown. Fly-half Hooley added the extras only for his opposite number, Madigan, to land a penalty.

Bedford were causing problems at the scrum and in the loose which saw Bristol penalised allowing Hooley to stretch the visitors lead. The visitors looked to be maintaining the pressure until scrum-half Lee Dickson had his box kick charged down.

Rhodri Williams tied-up kicked up field and appeared to catch the Bedford defence napping as wing Morahan sprinted away and beat two defenders to score. Madigan was off target but no such worries for Hooley who added his second penalty.

The half time break, with Bedford Blues leading 13-8, allowed the coaching team to issue some harsh words to his players to lift the ahead of the second half. But the home side problems as they were pushed back at their own scrum.

The first points of the second half came at the hour when Madigan’s second penalty reduced the deficit to two points. Wing Howard Packman looked to have breezed through a slack defence for the Blues second try but it was disallowed for an obstruction.

With 15 minutes remaining Bristol finally took the lead when replacement flanker Nick Hanning peeled off the side of the scrum and went the long way round to power over the line despite two defenders on his back. Madigan added the extras.

This sparked life into the Bristol side, and the 9,208 crowd, but the visitors were not prepared to lie down. Bristol, though, ground out their fourteenth league win of the season though they failed for the second time this season to take a bonus point.

Bristol scorers – tries: L Morahan, N Haining; con: I Madigan; pen: I Madigan 2

Bedford Blues scorers – try: D Adamson; con: W Hooley; pens: W Hooley 2.

Bristol: J Williams; L Morahan, A Leiua, T Pisi (c) (B Searle, 63), T Varndell (J Tovey, 74); I Madigan, R Williams; S Tonga’uiha (R Bevington, 47), J Harris-Wright (R McMillan, 47; J Harris-Wright, 72), S Faletau, J Joyce, C Vui (N Haining, 38), S Jeffries, D Thomas, S Luatua.

Reps: O Dawe, A Uren.

Yellow card: C Vui (8-19)

Bedford Blues: C Czekaj (E Clement-Hill. 53); H Packman, R Lane, M LeBourgeois (c), D Adamson (J Burns, 53); W Hooley (C Czekaj, 74), L Dickson; S McCarthy (C Parilli-Ocampo, 65), T Lindsay (G Edgson, 57), B Cooper (A Penny, 60), J Onojaife (E Taylor, 60) W Carrick-Smith, J Blanchet (J Buggea, 53), A Rae, J Williams.

Referee: T Foley

Attendance: 9,208

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.