Cottrell the controller

Bedford 17 Richmond 44
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The Independent Online
THE battle of Courage League Division Two's big spenders produced a comfortable victory for Richmond yesterday, in a match which was high on passion but low on controlled, fluent rugby. Martin Offiah is still nursing an injured big toe and has yet to make his debut for Bedford. But it is doubtful whether he would have made much impact on this match, in which Richmond showed more incisiveness in their running from midfield and admirable control from their forwards when under pressure.

Richmond opened the scoring in the ninth minute, with Scott Quinnell making a thundering run through the centre to set up a simple overlap for Steve Hutton to score in the corner. Bedford recovered quickly from the blow and showed flair and initiative as they forced Richmond back for the next 20 minutes.

But they scored only one try for all their efforts, when fly-half Paul Turner released centre Matthew Oliver with a deft pass and the resulting break was enough to allow Ben Whetstone to canter into the corner.

The Welshman Turner was at the creative hub of two more quickfire Bedford attacks which just broke down at the crucial phase. A lovely reverse pass almost put Mike Rayer in at the corner and the timely break from Turner himself would have resulted in a simple try but for the Samoan flanker Junior Paramore forward-passing to Stuart Crosland.

But Richmond showed great resilience in withstanding this pressure and hit Bedford with three sucker punches to take a commanding lead at half- time. A quick throw-in caught Bedford's defence in disarray and Ben Clarke strode through with Steve Cottrell at his shoulder to provide the centre with a simple try.

Bedford's attacks became increasingly frenetic, with Turner tending to over-elaborate in midfield as he constantly sought after invention and the unusual. But Richmond brushed aside this ineffective prettiness with a simple, flowing move through the backs to put the scrum-half Andy Moore in for a try. Bedford were guilty of more poor handling in midfield to allow Tom Whitford to steal the ball and sprint 60 yards to score under the posts.

Bedford began the second half brightly and roused a grumbling home contingent with two tries in the first 20 minutes. A tap penalty close to the Richmond line gave the flanker Paul Hewitt a chance to break and from the resulting maul, Turner released a sweet reverse pass to allow John Farr to score.

Bedford's second try of the half also came from a set move, when good lineout ball close to the tryline was worked blind via the prop Simon Brown to give Rayer the try. But Richmond always seemed able to step up a gear when threatened and their front-five superiority told in the final quarter. Two more powerful breaks from the forwards released Adrian Davies and Cottrell to put the match way beyond Bedford's reach.

Bedford: M Rayer; S Crosland, B Whetstone, M Oliver, M Pechey; P Turner, J Farr; S Brown, S McCurrie, J Probyn, M Upex, S Murray, J Paramore, P Hewitt, R Winters.

Richmond: S Mason; J Fallon, T Whitford, M Hutton, S Cottrell; A Davies, A Moore; D McFarland, B Moore, D Crompton, C Quinnell, R West, B Clarke, L Jones, S Quinnell.

Referee: E Morrison (Gloucester).