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Bedford Blues 21

Cornish Pirates 27

3 February, 2024

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League / Cup

Championship Rugby Round 12


Goldington Road




Bedford Blues 21


Cornish Pirates 27

Phil Westren

Another superb victory, as Pirates make it 5 wins on the trot!

The start of the Six Nations on Friday evening saw a surprisingly sloppy French side lose 38-17 at home to last season’s tournament winners Ireland, and early on Saturday afternoon England won narrowly 27-24 against Italy in Rome. Then, for supporters of Bedford Blues and the Cornish Pirates, attention turned immediately to important Championship match action at Goldington Road, with the latter recording another superb victory – their fifth league win on the trot.


With both Cornish Pirates’ fly-half Bruce Houston and number 8 John Stevens picking up injuries seven days earlier at Coventry, replacement ‘10’ Tom Pittman was selected to start this week, whilst Hugh Bokenham moved back from second row to ‘8’ in place of club captain Stevens. Two other changes in the starting XV saw tight-head prop Fin Richardson named in place of Matt Johnson, who for this game dropped to the bench, and Will Britton selected to partner Steele Barker in the second row.


Listed among the replacements were both Harry Dugmore and Doug Bridge, the latter, who can play in either the back or second row, keen to make his debut for the Cornish Pirates. He is also on-loan from Ealing Trailfinders.


Playing Bedford Blues away always presents a tough challenge, and from a Pirates perspective nothing less was once again expected. Billed ahead of the weekend as a 4th versus 2nd clash in the Championship, after this scheduled Round 12 fixture kicked off at 4pm it was the Pirates, playing down the ground’s notorious slope in the first forty, who took an early lead thanks to a penalty successfully struck by Tom Pittman.


This was match once again played in front of the usual expected big home crowd who saw their hooker James Fish limp off all but from the start. A former Northampton ‘Saint’ who played briefly for the Pirates back in 2017-18, he was replaced by Jacob Fields.


A second and slightly easier penalty kick opportunity taken by Pittman missed the target, but with Pirates’ tackling impressive, as once again was their scrum, from yet another penalty kick opportunity Pittman made it 6-nil to the visitors.


Spurred to respond, first points for the home side came in the seventeenth minute. Spurning an opportunity to kick at goal when a penalty was whistled, from a kick to the corner and a following driving maul, with backs also adding support, Bedford’s skipper and former ‘Pirate’ Alex Day scored a try, to which fly-half Will Maisey added the conversion, albeit it off a kindly post.


Despite going behind, the Cornish Pirates maintained positivity, and would soon set a spirited attack. There was sound approach work by such as skipper Alex Everett, his fellow flanker Will Gibson, full-back Will Trewin, and number 8 Hugh Bokenham, before alert scrum-half Alex Schwarz spotted a gap and dummied to score a converted try.


The Blues looked to all but immediately hit back, only to be denied by a thumper of a tackle by Pirates’ centre Joe Jenkins, making his second appearance for the Cornish side on loan from Bristol Bears. Then, when Bedford’s Maisey struck a penalty attempt at goal, his effort on this occasion bounced back into play.


Was luck with the Pirates? Perhaps yes, but in what would prove a terrific last few minutes in the half their rewards were thoroughly deserved.


Jenkins first snapped up a loose pass some 40 metres out and ran to the posts for another converted score, and after further good work by Schwarz and always threatening wing Matt McNab, Bedford flanker Luke Frost was shown a yellow card for lurking offside. The Pirates once again kicked to the corner and a potent driving maul to the line ended with hooker Morgan Nelson identified as the try-scorer. Pittman’s conversion was on the button, and the immediate blow for the break saw the Pirates hold a healthy 27-7 halftime lead.


It was expected that the proud and gifted Bedford side would show their mettle in the second forty, and they did, with wing Dean Adamson, a proven prolific Championship try-scorer, not long adding to his acquired considerable tally. Maisey added the extras.


Such a score concentrated Pirates’ minds, as there was still work to do as they also sought a bonus point proving fourth try.


Midway through the half a Maisey run looked to have created a certain try for the Blues, but somehow the determined Pirates got back to disrupt the sudden attack. Then awarded a penalty, they were able to relieve a period of mounting pressure.


One more score for the Cornish side would likely see them safe, and it looked very much on when in full flight McNab took off on a fine run, only to be tap-tackled.


Bedford counter attacked twice, only for forward passes to gift possession back to the Pirates who, despite scoreless thus far in the second half, were fully focused to hold out for victory.


Dean Adamson and his fellow winger Sean French, a Cork-born ex Munster man, were clearly dangerous operators in home ranks, and it took a vital tackle by Robin Wedlake to thwart what appeared a scoring opportunity.


Adamson might well have scored again if he could gather the ball, and from a penalty kick for the corner Bedford earned a chance to make it over the line from attacking line-out. With no immediate joy the Blues might have felt a little frustrated, however following a yellow card shown to lock Steele Barker, and another penalty kick to the corner, scoring from driving maul a try somehow looked a cert, and in the developing mist it was. Replacement scrum-half James Lennon was the man who made it to the line, and with a pressure conversion coolly slotted by Maisey there was suddenly just six points in it.


Could the Pirates’ 14 men hold out in the final few minutes for what would be another outstanding victory, in what was once again a truly nail-biting affair? Well, they hadn’t managed to trouble the scoreboard operator in the second period, but the answer would be ‘Yes’, as they also admirably hold onto second place in the Championship.


Speaking at the end of Saturday’s contest, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:


“It was nail-biting at the end after the weather conditions came in, and Bedford chasing the game is always a dangerous prospect.


“We spoke at halftime about how we controlled them in the middle third of the pitch, good timing in the tackle. good physicality, and we spoke around a couple of penalties.


“They have a dangerous back three, so we controlled them around the edge and, overall, we were pleased to get over the line with this result, away against a really good Championship side.


“I think we took a lot of energy out of them physically in the first half, which energised us when we looked to attack, but what gave us a foothold in our game again was out scrum power as we didn’t allow them to launch cleanly in that first forty.”


Gavin added:


“As for fix ups for us to work on, I think it is our execution in terms of again there were trigger moments, pressure moments when we could have turned the screw in their ‘22’ in the second half, plus there were a couple also in the first half when we made some unforced errors but not through pressure. Like I said, it’s good to have those talking points, especially on the back of a win.


“The challenge this week was also obviously matching the output we had at Coventry, and on the road again we certainly, and pleasingly, did.”


Bedford Blues: 15 Matt Worley 14 Sean French 13 Jordan Venter 12 Jamie Elliott (23 Louis Grimoldby, 48) 11 Dean Adamson 10 Will Maisey 9 Alex Day (captain; 22 James Lennon, 66); 1 Joey Conway (17 Jamie Jack, 50) 2 James Fish (16 Jacob Fields, 01; 2 James Fish, 12; 16 Jacob Fields, 12) 3 Bryan O’Connor (18 Ed Prowse, 50) 4 Robin Williams (19 Geordie Irvine, 67) 5 Alex Woolford (21 Jac Arthur, 48; 5 Alex Woolford, 59; 21, Jac Arthur, 59) 6 Luke Frost 7 Kieran Curran (20 Cameron King, 59) 8 Joe Howard.


Yellow card: Luke Frost (38)


Cornish Pirates:   15 Will Trewin 14 Robin Wedlake 13 Joe Jenkins 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Matt McNab (23 Frankie Nowell, 71) 10 Tom Pittman 9 Alex Schwarz (21 Ruaridh Dawson, 55); 1 Lefty Zigiriadis (17 Jacob Morris, 55) 2 Morgan Nelson (16 Rhys Williams, 55) 3 Fin Richardson (18 Matt Johnson, 55) 4 Will Britton (19 Josh King, 40) 5 Steele Barker 6 Alex Everett (captain) 7 Will Gibson (22 Harry Dugmore, 71) 8 Hugh Bokenham (20 Doug Bridge, 59).

Yellow card: Steele Barker (74)



Bedford Blues – tries: Alex Day (17) Dean Adamson (49) James Lennon (75) cons: Will Maisey (18, 50, 76)

Cornish Pirates – tries: Alex Schwarz (25) Joe Jenkins (36) Morgan Nelson (39) cons: Tom Pittman (26, 37, 40) pens: Tom Pittman (03, 06)


Referee:   Andrew Jackson

Assistants:   Simon Harding & Calum Howard

Attendance:   2,734

Match Officials


Andrew Jackson


Simon Harding


Calum Howard