Rugby Union: Cooke promises heat treatment for Bedford

Bedford 22 Newcastle 29
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The Independent Online
THE RAIN had only just relented at the end of a match of equally unremitting physical confrontation. The warm, dry safety of the dressing- room beckoned, but not for Bedford. "I'm going to give the players hell," promised Geoff Cooke, Bedford's chief executive, director of rugby, joint coach and acceptable public face.

The subject of Cooke's ire was the decision, taken twice in the last six minutes with the scores tied at 22-all, to kick for goal from penalties at roughly 30 metres distance. Tony Yapp, Cooke felt, should have been booting for the corner and an attacking line-out, not at the posts. Yapp missed, twice.

Of course if Rob Andrew had not launched a deadly counter-attack in the dying seconds to set up Newcastle's winning try by the scrum-half Gary Armstrong, the reaction might have been less strained. But if Cooke's outburst can be forgiven, so surely can Yapp.

The outside-half had already slotted five penalty goals and a conversion in testing conditions. Only once, through Junior Paramore in first-half injury time, had Bedford unpicked the tight Newcastle defence for a try.

As it was, Andrew intelligently kicked long from deep, Bedford's retreating wing Ben Whetstone was forced to concede a line-out, and Armstrong aquaplaned over from the ensuing maul. Andrew converted and that effectively made it game, set and match to an old pal of Cooke's from those now far off but seemingly less complicated days as England coach and manager.

Short-termism preoccupies both these clubs. Newcastle, whose earlier tries by Tony Underwood, Jim Naylor and Tuigamala each testified to the Falcons' twin attributes of pace and battering ram power, are to give their Gateshead experiment the heave-ho after this weekend's match against Saracens. At Bedford there are rumours of new investment, but only, say the whispers, if Frank Warren departs the scene.

Nineteen of the club's 20 new executive boxes were occupied on Saturday, and the attendance was close to 4,000, which was respectable enough in the circumstances. But with annual running costs of around pounds 450,000 plus a wage bill of pounds 100,000 a month, Bedford's numbers do not add up.

They have the talent to stay in Premiership One, but they need that investment soon.

Bedford: Try Paramore; Conversion Yapp; Penalties Yapp 5. Newcastle: Tries Underwood, Naylor, Tuigamala, Armstrong; Conversions Wilkinson, Andrew 2; Penalty Wilkinson.

Bedford: S Howard; B Whetstone, J Ewens, A Murdoch, D O'Mahony; T Yapp, C Harrison (R Elliott, 69); N Hatley, J Richards, V Hartland (C Boyd, h-t), D Zaltzman, A Duke, J Cockle (M Deans, 59), J Forster, J Paramore

Newcastle Falcons: P Massey; T Underwood, M Shaw, R Andrew, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson (J Naylor, h-t), G Armstrong; N Popplewell ( G Graham, 49), R Nesdale, I Peel, G Archer, D Weir, P Walton, S O'Neill, D Ryan.

Referee: C Reeks (Somerset).