By Colin Reed
What a game!
The first round of the East Midlands Referee’s cup, arguably this should have been the final as results around the region suggest this was the top billing.
With the Bedford Ath away from home and ON’s unbeaten all season we knew this was to be the toughest encounter so far, and it was.
The first 20 minutes were tough, in tough conditions and with two tough packs fighting it out for every scrap of possession and field position.
The only time the backs were seeing the ball during this part of the game was to clear the lines or kick to touch on a penalty gain.
It was ON’s who really started the strongest spending most of this period in the Bedford half. ON’s had a very clear plan, give the back line the day off, the half backs rarely saw the ball as wave upon wave of ON forward play came crashing into the Bedford pack. However, wave upon wave got repelled, the defence held tight, lines were cleared time and again, real character building stuff.
The deadlock was finally broke when Bedford started to come back into the game after 15=20 minutes. Bedford decided there was joy to be had through the backs if they could just get the bar of soap out wide through the wind, rain and ON blitz defence. Sure enough, through the hands, out to Bhatti on the 10 metre line and a nicely weighted grubber kick had him opening the scoring as he flopped on the ball.......converted, 0-7!
For the rest of the half the titans up front continued to contest with the ON’s back line now putting the kettle on. Five minutes of the half left and yet another penalty conceded by Bedford meant ON’s kick to touch on the 5 metre line. The lineout was a real strength for ON’s and a nicely executed catch and drive allowed them to walk it over the line making the half time score 5-7 to Bedford.
The second half saw no change in tactics from ON’s, the back line had now changed into their pyjamas as the forwards continued to smash Bedford up front with the familiar pattern of pick and drive, pick and drive, slow yards...penalty against Bedford, kick to touch, line out catch and drive.
This was very effective and had Bedford defending for large parts of the game. The Bedford pack had plenty of their own ball too in the second half with some great runs from the back row and phases starting to be strung together but it’s fair to say Bedford defended for large parts of this game due to the penalty count.
Another line out from ON’s saw another attack on the Bedford line and another score from the ON’s pack as the battering up front finally got them over the line, 10-7 and 12 minutes remaining.
Bedford going behind then produced the best out of the squad. We had many phases of play and the forwards brought the backs back into the game......into the 22, 4 phases and with ON’s stretched Bedford moved the ball through the hands, Reed joins the line and is tackled 2 metres from the line but ON’s committed two players to the tackle leaving Bhatti on hand to pick up and fall over the line for his and Bedford’s second try.....unconverted 10-12.
Three minutes until the final whistle, ON’s threw everything at us, another penalty, another line out on the 5 metre line, another maul....defended! Final whistle, much relief.
Well to ON’s, a great forward display and a much needed test for the Bedford pack who came through with flying colours as a great deal of patience and maturity was shown.
Tough conditions, tough competition, good result but could easily have gone to ON’s. No doubt these two sides will meet again this season and hopefully in better conditions.
MOM – JP
POD - Fadds