Rotherham Titans produced a superb second half fightback before ultimately suffering bitter anguish as Bedford’s Will Hooley converted a last-kick-of-the-match penalty to grab the spoils 18-15 for the Blues.
Titans had disappointed with their first half efforts which saw them go in at the break trailing 15-0. However, a spirited second half performance saw them level matters with 7 minutes remaining to set up a thrilling finale, which unfortunately for them ended horribly at the death.
Following the bonus point defeat for Rotherham they are still clinging on to their Championship status, as with 6 games remaining they are 20 points adrift of eleventh placed side London Scottish.
Rotherham will not be eager to review the first 40 minutes of this one as they rarely got inside the Blues half and when they did they ended up kicking away possession which ultimately led to difficult times.
Bedford took the lead on 15 minutes when fly half Will Hooley knocked over a 3-pointer which was quickly followed by fullback Elliot Clements-Hill barging over the whitewash for the first try of the game.
Titans were eager with their efforts and by and large their defence was pretty effective. That was until the half hour mark when they would have been bitterly disappointed to have conceded a try next to the posts from a first-phase move from a scrum close to their own line. Hooley’s extras saw the Blues extend their advantage to 15-0.
Titans rallied late in the half but were unable to penetrate the visitor’s well-organised defence.
However, the second period saw a transformed Rotherham as they upped the tempo and intensity of their work. On 52 minutes Titans livewire scrum half, Rhodri Davies, brought his side back into the game as he sniped his way over after spotting a gap in the Blues defence. Lee Millar added the extras to reduce the home side’s arrears to 15-7.
Rotherham were now rocking and their line-speed out of defence began to take its toll on the visitors as errors crept into their game.
On 64 minutes, a no-arms tackle by Blues’ Alex Rae resulted in him having a 10 minute rest on the touchline and Caolan Ryan superbly knocking over the resulting long-range penalty to draw Rotherham to within 5 points of Bedford.
Seven minutes from time a rampant Rotherham moved the ball swiftly across the backline to replacement winger Jake Henry who showed good composure to dot down in the left hand corner. Unfortunately for Titans, Caolan Ryan’s difficult touchline conversion narrowly missed the target.
As the game approached the final minute it would have been a fair and fitting result for the sides to have shared the spoils. However, the Blues were awarded a penalty after Rotherham got themselves into difficulties from a line out deep inside their own 22. Up stepped Will Hooley who calmly slotted his kick to break Titans hearts.
Commenting post-match, a disappointed Nic Rouse explained, “It’s a horrible way to lose a rugby match, but I guess that kind of sums up our season really. We didn’t have the best first half; we only got into their half on two occasions and then we kick the ball away and they end up on our 5 metre line.
“Defensively, other than on a couple of occasions, I thought the lads were outstanding and that’s definitely a part of our game that is improving all the time and not many teams are scoring a lot of points against us now.
“We regrouped at half time, we wanted to play a bit more in the right areas and there were opportunities to go and attack and up the tempo, because we knew they don’t commit too many numbers at the breakdown defensively, so they don’t really slow your ball down and it was about us moving the ball quickly and play at a higher tempo and I thought we did that really well.
“I was pleased for our attack that we scored a try when we were a man down following Rory’s yellow card and it was a great second half for us, we were a little disappointed with the first half but on reflection maybe a draw would have been a fair result.”
Referee: Fergus Kirby
Yellow Card: Jennings (Titans), Rae (Bedford)
Titans: Davies (T), Henry (T), Millar (1C), Ryan (P)
Bedford: Clements-Hill (T), Lane (T), Hooley (2P, C)
Titans: 15 Caolan Ryan, 14 Drew Cheshire (Henry 65), 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Will Thomas, 10 Lee Millar (Foley 51), 9 Rhodri Davies, 1 Toby Williams (Tom Williams 79), 2 Jonny Murphy (Cole 51), 3 Andrew Foster (Palmer 78), 4 Rob Louw (Postlethwaite 79), 5 James Lasis, 6 Adam Peters, 7 Charlie Maddison (Burns 65), 8 Tom Calladine (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Luke Cole, 17 Tom Williams, 18 Brandon Palmer, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Tom Burns, 21 Ben Foley, 22 Jake Henry.
Bedford Blues: 15 Elliot Clements-Hill (Hutchinson 63), 14 Howard Packman, 13 Rich Lane, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois (Capt.), 11 Dean Adamson, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Jordan Burns (Dickson 52), 1 Sean McCarthy (Spelman 74), 2 Tom Lindsay (Fields 73), 3 Ben Cooper (Penny 73), 4 Ed Taylor (Onojaife 52), 5 Will Carrick-Smith, 6 Alex Rae, 7 Josh Buggea (Blanchet 52), 8 Jarad Williams.
Replacements: 16 Jacob Fields, 17 Dave Spelman, 18 Alex Penny, 19 Jordan Onojaife, 20 Justin Blanchet, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Rory Hutchinson.