National One: Pertemps Bees 34 Bedford Blues 27
After spending what seems like the last six years, though is in reality less than three months, watching the region’s respective strugglers being battered from pillar to post, the sight of Pertemps Bees slicing up Bedford was a joy to behold.
We’re not even in December yet, but anyone who witnessed Jon Goodridge, Matt Nuthall and Tristan Davies find room in a full-time defence and demonstrate the pace to convert it into points, must have felt like spring had sprung.
Particularly when any of these three got the ball. Goodridge is a Premiership player in all but club — he is on loan from Gloucester — while Nuthall on the wing and Davies in the centre give Bees the sort of cutting edge that must be the envy of most teams in National One. Certainly the ones below them.
They were key components of a threequarter cordon that ran good lines, did the basics well and — when the inevitable pressure came — defended valiantly.
While Goodridge and Davies made it on to the scoresheet, they will acknowledge the incisive approach work done by Nuthall who, as well as kicking four of his six goals, played a big part in three of his side’s five tries.
The fact that this was all done on a Sharmans Cross Road pitch that is already showing its traditional tendency to resemble a festive pudding makes it more credible.
And doubly so, considering that they went out knowing they would have to shoulder most of the burden for keeping Bees in what was always going to be a high-scoring encounter.
These sides had equal shares of 56 points on opening day and Bees' head coach Steve Williams had warned his men to expect a similarly open match on Saturday.
"It was pretty much as I thought it would be," Williams confirmed. "We thought it would take at least four tries to win it and, in the end, it took five. We felt that if we kept on going to the end, we would be able to expose them but we had to defend brilliantly to keep them out."
Indeed they did, though at the very last that brilliance was underpinned by a good measure of luck. Bees had built up an apparently decisive 34-20 lead only to concede a pick-and-drive try with a minute left. Ross Broadfoot’s conversion gave the visitors a loss bonus and the promise of something more.
They then shoved the home scrum off its own ball and manufactured a two-man overlap to score in the corner. Thankfully, those men were Arthur Brenton and Ben Alexander — a second row and a prop respectively — and neither possessed the dexterity to give Broadfoot a kick to level.
But that would have been harsh on the hosts who deserved this victory, only their second at home in this hugely promising campaign.
Rotherham, Leeds, Newbury and Doncaster have all left Solihull with a win, another issue about which Williams briefed his players beforehand.
"We said that visiting teams come here, know they’re in for a rough old time and steel themselves accordingly," Williams added.
"They play the game and get out as quickly as possible — once a year. But we have to raise ourselves to play in these conditions every fortnight. It’s not easy but the boys, have done something about it this week. It’s nice that they got what they deserved."
They were made to work extremely hard for it, however. It was Bedford who took the lead after three minutes when Broadfoot ran back a slack up-and-under.
Scrum half Karl Dickson made the initial break — supported by Adam Kettle — and the openside gave Alex Page a run in, despite Goodridge’s attempt at stopping him close to the line.
Five minutes later, the Bees backs were up and running. Nuthall carved through midfield, Goodridge secured possession and Davies dummied his way to the last defender whereupon he popped up for the rejuvenated Matt Miles to stroll in.
Although Broadfoot kicked two penalties to make it 13-7, it was Bees who were showing more adventure and it paid off just before the interval when Nuthall and Adam Billig went close.
It took the concession of a series of penalties to deprive them and eventually the referee ran out of patience and sinbinned Page.
With Reece Spee enjoying his own ten-minute rest, Bees used their numerical parity to squeeze Hotili Asi over. Then, deep into injury time, Goodridge hared down the right sideline and reappeared as play went left, to trick his way under the sticks. Nuthall made it 19-13 at the break.
Bedford bounced back to lead by a point when Jon Phillips scored but 15 points in eight minutes won the game. First, on the hour, Davies was put through as Jon Higgins shortened his pass, Nuthall added a penalty — helped by 20 metres worth of backchat from Bedford, and then Akapusi Qera mauled his way across.
The flanker’s try might not have been as beautiful as those that preceded it, but it turned out to be the winner.
PERTEMPS BEES: Goodridge; Billig, Knight, Davies, Nuthall; Higgins, Spee (Baxter, 70); Sigley (Long, 70), Miles (Pearl, 75), Asi (Dunning, 64), Davidson, Cornwell, Tuohy, Qera (Miller, 75), Halavatau. Replacements: Rawlins, Petty.
BEDFORD: Broadfoot; Moir (Hinkins, 67), Dodge, Allen, Page; Patston (Roberts, 67) Dickson; Volland (Alexander, 56), Price (Whitehead, 70), Olver (Graham, 47), Phillips (Botha, 70), Brenton; Strauss, Kettle (Harding, 61), Brady.
Referee: N Williams (RFU).