GKIPA Championship

Bristol 18 Bedford Blues 13

By John Harding

BRISTOL came close to seeing their unbeaten run in the GKIPA Championship come to an end as Bedford Blues looked on course to send the league leaders to their first league defeat of the season.

Bedford looked to have the game in the bag when wing Howard Packman raced through from 25 metres but the try was ruled-out by referee Tom Foley, after consulting TMO David Rose, for an obstruction in the build-up.

But a try fifteen minutes from replacement flanker Nick Hanning, back in the action after shoulder injury, crossed the whitewash and fly-half Ian Madigan landed the conversion nudged the home side ahead - a lead they were not going to relinquish.

The win may not have looked pretty for the 9,208 crowd but it was four points for Bristol to re-establish nine point advantage over Ealing Trailfinders who will be their hosts in the next Championship game on Saturday, February 10, at Vallis Way, kick off 7pm.

“I thought that we deserved the win,” said Bristol head coach Pat Lam. “There was no doubt that Bedford came out and put us under a lot of pressure. But the boys ground it out and there a lot of things for us to work on.

“We weren’t at our best but I remember all fourteen of the league games and there were sticking points in all of them. That is what are the building blocks and I would rather have these types of games, where we can learn from, rather than last week’s 68-nil.

“We managed to win with a scrum not working at its best. If you are going to be successful you have to be pretty solid up front - it doesn’t guarantee you success but it is the sum of the parts.”

Bristol, who were already on the back foot, had second row Chris Vui sent to the sin-bin for an infringement at the visitors driving maul. Bedford were held-up over the line twice before wing Dean Adamson crossed for the opening try.

Fly-half Will Hooley added the extras and a penalty either side of three points from the kicking tee from Madigan. Bristol were pushed back at their own scrum but former England scrum-half Lee Dickson had his box kick charged down.

His opposite number, Rhodri Williams, cleaned-up and kicked ahead but the Bedford defence were slow to respond and wing Luke Morahan won the race to dive on the ball as it crossed the line.

Madigan was off target but no such worries for Hooley who added his second penalty to give the visitors a 13-8 lead at the break with the Bristol players heading to the dressing room showdown and some home truths.

A penalty on the hour from Madigan reduced the arrears to two points before Packman had his touchdown disallowed. This was the wake-up call for Bristol as Hanning broke off the side of a scrum to cross the whitewash and Madigan add the extras.

Bristol’s front row injury problems - Gaston Cortes struggling with a calf injury and Alex Giltrow recovering from concussion - has seen Bristol bring in prop James Lay, 29 on a two-month loan from the Bay of Plenty.

Lay’s brother Jordan, also a prop, who has agreed to join Bristol for next season to move south from Edinburgh. Lam says that James Lay, who arrived at the club last week, has plenty of experience and is eager to play.

Another injury worry is that replacement prop Ross R McMillan had to leave the field with a dislocated wrist while Samoan international Vui came off in the first half with a high ankle sprain.

Bristol scorers - tries: L Morahan, N Haining; con: I Madigan; pen: I Madigan 2 Bedford Blues scorers - try: D Adamson; con: W Hooley; pens: W Hooley 2.

Bristol: J Williams; L Morahan, A Leiua, T Pisi (c) (B Searle, 63), T Varndell (J Tovey, 74); I Madigan, R Williams; S Tonga’uiha (R Bevington, 47), J Harris-Wright (R McMillan, 47; J Harris-Wright, 72), S Faletau, J Joyce, C Vui (N Haining, 38), S Jeffries, D Thomas, S Luatua.

Reps: O Dawe, A Uren.

Yellow card: C Vui (8-19)

Bedford Blues: C Czekaj (E Clement-Hill. 53); H Packman, R Lane, M LeBourgeois (c), D Adamson (J Burns, 53); W Hooley (C Czekaj, 74), L Dickson; S McCarthy (C Parilli-Ocampo, 65), T Lindsay (G Edgson, 57), B Cooper (A Penny, 60), J Onojaife (E Taylor, 60) W Carrick-Smith, J Blanchet (J Buggea, 53), A Rae, J Williams.

Referee: T Foley

Att: 9208