London Scottish 17
Bedford Blues 24
HUW CROSS @ Richmond Athletic Ground
LONDON SCOTTISH surrendered a 14-0 lead at the Richmond Athletic Ground as Bedford Blues ran out deserved 24-17 winners.
Despite a physically dominant pack, errors and discipline cost the home side who were looking to back up their impressive victory over Cornish Pirates last time out.
With an expectant crowd in West London, Scottish started well, taking just seven minutes to cross over. Eeking a penalty from the visitors at a line-out in their own half, it allowed Scottish to pen the Blues back. Deep in the 22, a ruthless catch and drive saw hooker James Malcolm crash over, with fly-half Will Magie superbly adding the extras.
Graham Steadman’s side established superiority in the set-piece and it was telling as Scottish extended their lead. In Bedford’s 22 and with a penalty advantage in the scrum, Bobby Beattie rose highest to collect Magie’s shot to nothing, dotting down under the posts with quarter the game gone.
At 14-0, Scottish looked comfortable and seemingly put an end to a brief Blues fightback when their defence held-firm underneath their own sticks. But then, having done the hardwork in forcing a knock-on and a scrum, an overly confident backline handed Bedford a lifeline as Rich Lane intercepted to flop-over from five yards, halving the hosts advantage.
Still rattled by the score, the visitors struck again but this time there was no fortune involved. A perfectly executed training ground move released wing Ryan Hutler on the half-way to scamper past a disorganised defensive line. Will Hooley’s touchline conversion leveling the scores with ten minutes of the half to play.
Scottish re-grouped for the remaining minutes and although camped deep in Bedford’s half, the visitors ultimately held-on until the break, albeit with some cynical try-line defending that may have warranted referee Simon Harding reaching to his pocket.
Both sides made changes early in the second half, Bedford emptying their bench while Scottish surprisingly opted for a change at the steering wheel as Harry Sheppard was sent on to replace fly-half Magie with half an hour to play.
With a kicking arm-wrestle on display it wasn’t until the hour we saw the first line break, and it was from Scottish. Full-back Luke Hibberd broke through some loose tackling before superbly off-loading to set Matt Gordon free, only for ill-discipline to cost them a score in Bedford’s 22.
And it did cost them.
From the resulting penalty, the visitors crept up to the half-way and with a moment of brilliance, Hutler kick-chased and collected a fortunate bounce before side-stepping Hibberd to go over. Hooley again adding the extras.
Scuppering a chance to close the score from an attacking line-out, Scottish re-gathered to win a penalty on the 22 which Sheppard nonchalantly slotted to make it a four-point game with ten minutes remaining.
Hooley promptly retaliated with three-points of his own, which was a small victory for Scottish who defended valiantly on their try-line stopping what would’ve been a two score game and an unassailable deficit.
As the clock ticked into the red, Bedford gave Scottish one last chance to take something from the tie, but a penalty that failed to make touch summed up their evening as Bedford ran out unlikely winners after Scottish’s dominant opening 20 minutes.
On a cold winter’s evening in Athletic Ground, proceedings started with a warming minutes applause for a member of the London Scottish family, Mark Whitehead, who passed away over Christmas.
London Scottish: L Hibberd; R Stevenson, B Beattie, M Gordon, J Mikalcius; W Magie, J Barton; J Brodley, J Malcolm, K Whyte, N Cheishvili, A Toolis, L Frost, L WynneC, M Eliet. Subs: O Adams, R Eveligh, P Cringle, M Jurevicius, M Bright, C Gowling, H Sheppard, D Barnes.
Bedford Blues: P Lydon; R Hutler, R Lane, O Hirskjy-Douglas, D Adamson; W Hooley, A Day; S McCarthy, J Fields, H Paul, J Onojaife, E Taylor, D Temm, J Atkinson, A Faosiliva. Subs: R Smith, J Wrafter, A Penny, O Curry, J Buggea, G Hart, S Leeming, M Worley.
London Scottish: Tries: Malcolm, Beattie; Pens: Sheppard
Bedford Blues: Try: Lane, Lydon 2; Pens: Hooley.
Scoring sequence (London Scottish first): 5-0; 7-0, 12-0; 14-0, 14-5; 14-7; 14-12; 14-14 (h-t) 14-19; 14-21, 17-21, 17-24.
Man-of-the-Match: In an evening where Scottish’s pack had the upper-hand, the visitors were forced into expansive rugby and their winger Ryan Hutler excelled. The lightning quick speed at which he took both his scores deservedly gets him the gong.
Talking point: At 14-0 up, Scottish’s decision to play from under their posts cost them dearly. Halving the lead the visitors made the most of the lifeline and their confidence grew. Scottish, makers of their own downfall it would seem.