Bedford still at a loss on the field

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The Independent Online

Bedford had entered the match hoping to break their league duck, instead Northampton ended up breaking the home side's hearts in a disappointing local derby, which had the heat taken out of it by a chill wind and a rash of penalties.

Bedford had entered the match hoping to break their league duck, instead Northampton ended up breaking the home side's hearts in a disappointing local derby, which had the heat taken out of it by a chill wind and a rash of penalties.

But amid all the stoppages the stand-off Paul Grayson, with 11 points in the match, equalled Roger Hosen's Northampton record of 1,466 points.

Nevertheless there was a full house at Goldington Road, cheering room only, and there was a feeling of relief pervading the ground. Bedford may be bottom of the Allied Dunbar Premiership, but that was better than the very real prospect they faced of bottoming out altogether. Just over a month ago Bedford's 113 history of rugby tradition was saved from going down the pan by the townspeople, who raised £500,000 of the £700,000 that was needed to clear the club's debts. With that behind them the future awaits.

But it will not wait that long. They had come into this match with two European Shield victories behind them after losing their first half a dozen Premiership matches. This seventh defeat on the trot did not represent a step forward. Bedford are in serious need of a kicker, not just of goals but out of hand as well.

The Canadian international Scott Stewart was woeful, the ball sounding like a lump of dough as it left his boot. When he found touch, which was not all that often (he even missed it at a penalty), it was never very far in front of him. The drop-outs and re-starts were taken -and very well too - by his captain, Andy Gomarsall. And he had plenty of unwelcome opportunity to show how well he has mastered that art.

Bedford did at least compete for everything, their problem lay in turning possession to their advantage. That was an area at which Saints were particularly adept. Nick Beal had opened the scoring with Northampton's first try from close range in the 14th minute, Matt Dawson's sucker punch 10 minutes later, when he angled away from the cover after taking a quick penalty seemed to knock Bedford on to their backsides. Shortly after Ben Cohen made in-roads on the left, popped up the ball and the right wing, Jon Sleightholme, followed in Dawson's footsteps for his first try. All Bedford had to show was a solitary Stewart penalty.

Home hopes faded further just four minutes into the second half when Saints' double scissors left the defence in ribbons and Pat Lam slammed over. Then Sleightholme wrapped up a slick backs move and Budge Pountney added another.

Ryan Banks and David Edwards did finally breach Saints' defences just as the snow hit town, but Bedford had drifted too far behind in Northampton's earlier blizzard of points.

Bedford: R O'Neill (J Hinkins, 37); P Sackey (J Elphick, 80), D Harris, R Eriksson, P Hewitt; S Stewart, A Gomarsall (capt); A Black, M Kwisiuk, A Olver, C Eagle, R Winters, D Edwards, R Banks (D Zaltzman, 67), F Rossigneux.

Northampton: N Beal; J Sleightholme (C Moir, 69), A Bateman, M Allen, B Cohen; P Grayson, M Dawson (J Bramhall, 71); G Pagel (M Volland, 78), S Walter, M Stewart, A Newman, R Metcalfe, D Mackinnon (S Holmes, 66), P Lam (capt), B Pountney.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).

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