Bedford Blues 48 Cornish Pirates 36
Playing the first of two away games to complete their 2013/14 campaign, the Cornish Pirates were beaten in what was an end of season try-gilded contest at Goldington Road.
Played in spring sunshine on this Easter Saturday afternoon, and with pressure off for both sides, an entertaining contest was expected, which is just how it worked out.
A much-changed Cornish side was led out by scrum-half Tom Kessell, who had the honour of skippering the Pirates for the first time. He had started his rugby career playing rugby for the club's minis, so it was pleasing that three more players with roots in the youth section would get the points scoring underway, as tries from centre Tom Hendrickson and full-back Max Bodilly, plus one conversion from wing Kyle Moyle quickly put the Pirates 12-nil up.
It was a particularly bright start, but as the half progressed it was felt that it was just a matter of time before the Blues would bounce back, and they did. The response wasn't immediate, but come it did, as approaching the half-hour mark experienced Samoan lock Paul Tupai was given room close to the line to pick up and pounce, his try converted by skipper and full-back James Pritchard.
On a day for running rugby, and thus for young legs to take advantage, when a next score came it was perhaps surprising that Tupai, who is now aged 39, would add to his tally, fly-half Tony Fenner feeding him a try-scoring pass. The conversion from Pritchard made it 14-12 to the home side, which is as it remained come the break.
The Pirates had impressed at the start of the game, and they would again when the second half got underway. As a Redruth man Tom Duncan regularly displayed his try-scoring credentials, so making just his second Championship 'start' for the Pirates it was encouraging to see the No. 8 take a chance off the back of a scrum to put the Pirates back in front.
A 14-17 points scoreline on 44 minutes would though see the '14' reversed to '41', as Bedford proceeded to totally dominate play for a lengthy period. Prop Nick Auterac set the Blues off on their try-scoring spree, with Pritchard adding the extras, and Tupai then completed the most unlikely, but thoroughly deserving nonetheless, hat-trick. Three further unconverted scores from No. 8 Joe Vandermolen, Fenner, and then wing Patrick Tapley took the Blues to the 41 points mark, and it clearly game over.
To confirm positives for the Cornish side, Duncan would score again, his try converted by Moyle, and although Bedford managed one more converted try of their own through replacement hooker TJ Harris, the Pirates completed the entertaining afternoon's scoring with a first Championship try for replacement Luke Jones, which was converted by Moyle, and there a second try in the match for Hendrickson.
Speaking after the game, Assistant Coach Gavin Cattle said: “In terms of attack the first 20 minutes was perhaps the best we have played all season, and although in an inevitably loose game Bedford perhaps deserved their victory, there were definitely positives for us.
"Young players who were given their chances took them well, and although things didn't go all our way, it was especially encouraging that we kept going right to the very end.”
Bedford Blues: James Pritchard (capt), 14 Patrick Tapley, 13 Mike Le Bourgeois, 12 Mark Atkinson (Jake Sharp 37), 11 Corey Hircock, 10 Tony Fenner, 9 Daryl Veenendaal (Harry Peck 68); 1 Nick Auterac (Darren Fearn 62), 2 Charlie Clare (TJ Harris 71), 3 Ben Cooper (Phil Boulton 61), 4 Paul Tupai (Mike Howard 56), 5 Harry Wells, 6 Greg Gillanders, 7 Darren Fox, Joe Vandermolen.
Replacement (not used): Tom Armes.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Max Bodilly (Luke Jones 71), 14 Kieran Goss, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Junior Fatialofa (Tom Riley 54), 11 Kyle Moyle, 10 Angus Sinclair, 9 Tom Kessell (capt); 1 Kieran Davies (Ben Prescott 54), 2 Tom Channon (Aaron Carpenter 62), 3 Jack Andrew, 4 Neale Patrick (Matt Bolwell 62), 5 Will Graulich, 6 Jake Parker, 7 Joel Conlon, 8 Tom Duncan.
Replacements (not used): Alex Cheesman, Craig Holland.
Yellow card: Kessell.
Bedford Blues – tries: Tupai (3), Fenner, Vandermolen, Tapley, Harris, Auterac; con: Pritchard (3), Sharp.
Cornish Pirates – Hendrickson (2); Duncan (2), Bodilly, Jones; cons: Moyle (3).
Referee: Tom Foley (RFU).
The Pirates will end this season sixth-placed in the league, whatever the result away to top four side Leeds Carnegie on Friday evening, who they lost to 27-20 at the Mennaye Field back in September.