RFU Championship: Bedford 18 Worcester Warriors 28
Marcel Garvey’s injury-time try sealed victory for Championship leaders Worcester Warriors in their top-of-the-table clash against Bedford Blues.
The flying winger seized on a loose pass and sprinted 40 metres unopposed to touch down between the posts, with fly-half Andy Goode then adding the conversion.
The final score was a touch harsh on Bedford, who had not trailed by more than three points throughout the match and had led twice.
The match up between the two outstanding sides in the Championship had been much anticipated.
It was first versus second and a clash of two free-scoring teams.
However, the match largely turned into a kicking duel between Goode and Bedford skipper James Pritchard.
Goode finished the match with 23 points from four penalties, a conversion and a hat-trick of drop goals – a club record – while Pritchard kept the Blues in it with six penalties.
“When you have a goal kicker like that it makes a huge difference,” acknowledged Warriors’ head coach Richard Hill.
‘We were expecting a hard game and in the end we did well to win it. We dominated possession, we dominated the scrum and we dominated the set-piece, we were held up over the line twice and we should have won by a lot more.
“We were far better than Bedford, but not clinical enough.”
However, Hill was not happy with the performance of referee Keith Lewis.
“We had most of the possession but when we were attacking we were constantly penalised for holding on.
“According to the interpretation of the tackle being used this year we should have been allowed to place the ball, but we weren’t allowed to do so,’ commented Hill.
Hill praised the opposition, adding: “Credit to the Bedford defence for keeping us out for so long despite all the possession we had.”
Honours were even at 9-9 after a first-half that was high on commitment but low on scoring opportunities.
The match began with an exchange of penalties by Pritchard and Goode.
It was the leaders who opened up first and when Bedford were forced to kill the ball at a ruck in the 10th minute, and Goode doubled the lead.
Sean Tomes was luck to stay on the pitch after being flagged for stamping but it was decided that a penalty was sufficient punishment.
From that penalty, Warriors launched a series of attacks down the right with Aleki Lutui creating space for Graham Kitchener to charge forward but the lock was held up over the line.
Bedford’s best moment of the half followed when Sacha Harding made a scintillating break up the middle and found his back-row colleague Gregor Gillanders.
Worcester flanker James Collins made a superb cover tackle to prevent the try but, in the desperate defence that followed, a penalty was conceded and Pritchard levelled the scores once again.
The winger then put Bedford into the lead before Goode pegged them back with his first drop goal.
Despite going down to 14 men when centre Tom Bedford was sin-binned for shoving Goode, the home side got their noses in front with a penalty after the break.
However, that preceded a period of sustained Worcester pressure and, although the Bedford defence held firm, it was only a close run thing.
Goode and Dale Rasmussen combined to send scrum-half Jonny Arr over, but he knocked on in the tackle to deny them a try.
Warriors had to settle for another six points from Goode to take them to 15 points before Pritchard equalised once again.
The kickers swapped another penalty each before Goode looked to have clinched the victory with a drop goal in the 81st minute.
And then Garvey applied the coup de grace to maintain the Warriors unbeaten record as they go into a crucial period of the season – a fact that the Warriors coach is well aware of.
“We have got a couple of big games coming up, they are going to be thick and fast now and we are expecting a physical battle against Cornish Pirates next week,” said Hill.