Pirates suffer fifth defeat after conceding four tries in first half
Bedford Blues 32 Cornish Pirates 13
at Goldington Road
Four first-half tries from Bedford Blues condemned the Cornish Pirates to their fifth defeat of the Championship campaign as the Goldington Road outfit completed a regular season league double over Chris Stirling's side.
In front of a bumper holiday crowd, both teams started brightly and a high-scoring game looked on the cards but by half-time with the Pirates trailing 29-8 and the bonus point in the bag for the home side, the result was decided.
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A brighter second-half performance from the Cornish side briefly hinted at an unlikely turnaround, but they struggled to turn possession into points, leaving their high performance manager honest in his post-match assessment.
Stirling said: "Three defensive errors in the first half cost us. I was pleased with the application and commitment in the second half, but some of the attacking and decision-making was poor."
Bedford went ahead after five minutes as impressive Saracens loanee Henry Staff found space down the right flank to attack, linking well with Jake Sharp for the first try. Then Josh Bassett broke free in midfield after some confusion in the Pirates' defence and raced clear for his 11th try of the season. James Pritchard converting to make it 12-0.
Good work by the Pirates' forwards set up a close-range score for Dave Ward after a line-out and catch and drive move before a Rob Cook penalty cut the Blues lead back to just four points. But Bedford roared back and hit the Pirates with another quick-fire double salvo to secure their four-try bonus after just 35 minutes.
Scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal took a superb inside pass from lock Ale Rae to sprint home and then flanker Sacha Harding rounded off a sustained period of forwards power on the Pirates line to get his name on the score-sheet.
Pritchard converted both tries and fly-half Jake Sharp then landed an audacious 40-metre drop goal to leave the Blues 29-8 up at the break.
The Pirates were much better after the break as they tried to control through better kicking from Ceiron Thomas. But a Pritchard penalty five minutes into the second half extended the home lead by another three.
Thomas was eventually withdrawn with Rob Cook moving to fly-half and Matt Evans taking over at full-back even though Chris Morgan had added a second Pirates try from close-range.
Pritchard missed two late penalties for the Blues and a fine try-saving tackle from David Vincent halted Doherty just short of the home line.
Bedford Blues: Pritchard (capt), Vincent, Burke (Vass 64), Staff, Bassett, Sharp (Lennard 72), Veenendaal (Liebenberg 72); Steenkamp (Seal 75), Cochrane (Locke 78), Seal (Boulton 55), Howard (Tupai 55), Rae (Johnson 66), Gillanders, Harding, Barrell.
Scorers: Tries: Starff, Bassett, D Veenendaal, Seal. Cons – Pritchard (3). Drop Goal – Sharp. Pen – Pritchard.
Cornish Pirates: Cook, Evans, Cooper (Pointer 53), D Locke, D Doherty, Thomas (Kessell 67), Cattle (capt), Andrew (Rimmer 59) Ward (Cowan-Dickie 72), Paver (Fairbrother 72), Smith, Myerscough (Cowan 53), Morgan, Burgess, Maidment (Ewers 72).
Scorers: Tries: – Ward, Morgan. Pen – Cook.
Referee: S Lee (RFU).