Belated moment of joy for Bedford

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The Independent Online

At half-time the loyal Bedford fans who earlier this season put their hands deep in their pockets to keep the club afloat could sense an improbable League victory. Their first of the season.

But their 17-point advantage was slowly reduced in the second half by the accur-acy of Jonny Wilkinson's boot and the indiscipline of their own play. Four penalties in the first 25 minutes after the interval were successfully kicked, and a brave Newcastle victory was definitely expected by their director of rugby, Rob Andrew.

"I thought we were going to win when it was 20-15, but we had left ourselves too much to do," he said after the game.

Bedford had hardly left their own half, but they have lost narrowly too often to go down without a fight, and produced a stunning last quarter. Brian Banks, who had an excellent game all round, picked up as the ball popped untidily out of a ruck and dashed six yards to the line to score and extend the lead to 10 points. A magnificent touchline conversion by Andy Gomarsall made it 12, but Newcastle came straight back with a Ross Beattie converted try.

Only five points the difference and six minutes left; the telling blow came when Bedford wheeled a Newcastle scrum in midfield to gain the put-in and drove the ball towards the left corner, recycling it over 20 times.

Each yard gained was cheered by the 3,204 strong crowd. Finally, seven metres out, frustration got the better of Newcastle and they drove into the ruck from the side and conceded a penalty. Gomarsall elected to go for the corner and Bedford caught and drove over the line, Chris Pearson claiming the score. Newcastle's comeback was gallant but they had lost the game in the first half through indiscipline and a lack of imagination.

Bedford had opened the scoring in the very first minute - "A soft try to give away," said Andrew as Banks had supplied the winger George Truelove. But Bedford's inability to secure their own line-out stifled their progress; three were lost to Stuart Grimes and Doddie Weir in the first 11 minutes, but then they were helped by two sin-binnings that undermined Newcastle. Inga Tuigamala was shown the yellow card in the 33rd minute for his second tackle without using his arms, and in the 41st minute Beattie was binned for punching Florent Rossigneux.

Gomarsall punished them with accurate kicking and Paul Sackey hurt them with a 40-yard sprint under the posts as Bedford made the most of a four-on-two attacking situation. The early 17-point lead proved too much for Newcastle and gave the Bedford faithful the win they have coveted.

Bedford: S Stewart; P Sackey, A Murdoch, J Connelly, G Truelove; D Hughes, A Gomarsall (capt); A Olver, C Pearson, V Hartland (A Black, 71), D Sims (C Eagle, 62), D Zaltzman, R Winters, F Rossigneux, R Banks.

Newcastle: P Massey; M Wood, I Tuigamala, M Shaw, S Legg (J Noone, 40); J Wilkinson, G Armstrong (capt); I Peel (M Ward, 59), R Horton (M Howe, 40), M Hurter, D Weir, S Grimes, S O'Neill ( H Vyvyan, 40), R Arnold, R Beattie.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol)