Bristol Clinch B&I Cup
Bristol Rugby 17-14 Bedford Blues
Bristol Rugby toasted Paul Hull’s final game in charge with a nailbiting 17-14 victory over Bedford in torrential conditions at the Memorial Stadium.
An Anthony Elliott second-half try and 12 points from the boot of Ed Barnes gave Bristol their first piece of silverware since 2004. Bedford hit back with a late try from Handre Schmidt but the hosts held firm to record a famous result.
Bedford had the better of the opening exchanges and took the lead on the ten minute mark with a James Pritchard penalty. The Bedford captain converted a simple kick in front of the posts after the Bristol defensive line had strayed offside.
Bristol had an opportunity to respond soon after, but Ed Barnes saw his long-range penalty attempt sail wide. The visitors probed again, flanker Alex Rae going close this time before spilling the ball in the tackle.
The blustery conditions did neither side any favours in a first-half punctured by handling errors and stray passes. Robbie Shaw finally injected some much-needed dynamism into the match, producing a deft chip into the corner as Bristol made their first foray into opposition territory. In the ensuing phases, Bedford were caught infringing at the breakdown and Ed Barnes drew the hosts level with a penalty. Barnes promptly added another three points minutes later, giving Bristol a 6-3 lead with a sweetly-struck effort.
Paul Hull’s forwards began to control proceedings up front and earned another penalty in front of the posts after a trademark drive. In a desperate attempt to thwart their progress, Bedford’s Alex Rae was caught infringing, receiving a yellow card and ten minutes in the sin-bin for his troubles. Ed Barnes added a third penalty, extending Bristol’s advantage to 9-3 at the break.
Despite their man disadvantage, Bedford began the second half full of intent and very nearly notched the first try of the game – only to be thwarted by some last-ditch tackling on the Bristol line. Instead it was Bristol who crossed the whitewash first, Anthony Elliott capitalising on a loose ball to evade two defenders and slide over. The opportunity came after Jack Adams had collected a punt forward following a mistake by Edd Thrower. Barnes missed the conversion but Bristol led 14-3.
Mike Rayer’s side reduced the lead to 14-6 when James Pritchard added Bedford’s first points of the second period with a well-taken penalty. Soon after, George Watkins thought he had carved an opening in the Bedford midfield only to be penalised for crossing. But the hosts survived further punishment when Pritchard failed to convert the resulting penalty.
Bedford piled on the pressure and Bristol defended manfully to keep them at bay. After several phases of intense attacks, Will Chudley launched a misplaced pass and Junior Fatialofa hacked gratefully clear. The visitors continued to press and were rewarded with another penalty. James Pritchard added his third kick as Bedford fought back to 14-9.
Bristol hit back with a penalty of their own, Ed Barnes marking his last game for the club with another solid kicking display – this time striking an angled effort through the posts to extend the lead to 17-9. The visitors set up a nervy finish when South African Handre Schmidt stretched over in the corner following good work from the Bedford pack. Pritchard missed the conversion and Bristol clung to a narrow three point lead. As the clock wound down, Richard Bolt kicked the ball into touch to seal a memorable end to the 2010/11 season.
George Watkins; Anthony Elliott, Jack Adams, Junior Fatialofa, Dan Norton; Ed Barnes, Robbie Shaw; Mark Irish, David Blaney, Darren Crompton, Mariano Sambucetti, Roy Winters, Iain Grieve ©, James Merriman, Dan Montagu.
Ollie Hayes, Wayne Thompson (for Darren Crompton, 56 mins), Mako Vunipola (for Mark Irish, 74 mins), Darren Barry (for Mariano Sambucetti, 71 mins), Richard Bolt (for Robbie Shaw, 80 mins), Mark Davies, Marco Mama.
Edd Thrower; Handre Schmidt, Myles Dorrian, Ollie Dodge, James Pritchard (c); Jake Sharp,Will Chudley; Dan Seal, Dan Richmond, Phil Boulton, Mike Howard, George Kruis, Gregor Gillanders, Alex Rae, Paul Tupai.
Chris Locke, Sam Walsh (for Phil Boulton, 61 mins), Sean Tomes (for Gregor Gillanders, 71 mins), Chris Goodman, Darryl Veenendaal (for Will Chudley, 52 mins) Tom Bedford, Duncan Taylor (for Edd Thrower, 52 mins).
Referee: Andrew Mcmenemy