Saturday 3 November 2012 – 3.00pm
Goldington Road, Bedford
RFU Championship #8
The Big One, or at least one of them, is upon us. The Falcons visit Bedford tomorrow in a top-of-the-table clash that could see us extend our lead at the summit of the Championship to up to 12 points, or have it reduced to as small as two.
So far the Blues look to be our main challengers in the regular season, though who knows what could happen in the play-offs. This clash would have been between the only two unbeaten teams but Bedford lost their first game of the season at Bristol on Sunday, losing 23-13 to Bristol at the Memorial Stadium. Presumably the south-westerners have their nine players back now.
Former Falcon Luke Eves was the home side’s hero with two tries, the second score denying Les Bleus a bonus point.
So far this season Moseley, London Scottish, Nottingham, Plymouth and Stirling (in the B&I Cup) along with Cardiff in a pre-season friendly have been beaten at Goldington Road, with only Saracens winning their in another August warm-up game. Of those tasting defeat, only Nottingham went home without conceding under 50 points. The currently-nomadic Fez Boyz will play a home game in Bedford a week tonight incidentally, against Leicester in the LV= Cup.
However, despite Bedford’s lofty status in the division they have only won once away from home in the league, in Jersey, while they drew with Rotherham in September along with the aforementioned loss at Bristol.
This will be our first meeting with Bedford since 2000, when both teams were last in the same division. Back them Bedford were relegated from the Premiership but their only victory of the season was against the Falcons at Goldington Road, and they lost the twice-postponed KP clash by a slight margin of 23-20.
They were also one of only two sides, the other being Coventry, who beat us in our last season in this division back in 1996/97. Following financial problems in the late 1990s, Coventry looked to buy out Bedford and take the latter’s place in the Premiership, causing the first of the postponements of our home game with the Blues in 1999/2000.
Falcons in MK40 (Bedford is in the Milton Keynes postal area):
14/10/1967 Club Match L11-14
29/11/1969 Club Match L0-3
31/10/1970 Club Match L3-9
30/10/1971 Club Match L12-34
08/03/1975 Cup QF L6-12
23/01/1982 Cup R3 W14-3
23/04/1983 Club Match W24-15
14/04/1984 Club Match L12-15
07/12/1985 Club Match W13-3
05/12/1987 Division 2 W25-16
17/03/1990 Club Match 4-8 (Abandoned)
11/04/1992 Division 2 L4-9
09/03/1996 Division 2 W24-6
05/04/1997 Division 2 L28-34
24/10/1999 Premiership 1 W29-22
21/03/1999 C&G Cup SF D27-27 (Bedford won on tries)
08/04/2000 Premiership 1 L22-32
Rob Andrew, no stranger to brushes with authority in his former life as a club DoR, was not happy with that semi-final in 1999, having not read the rules that said tries scored came into consideration at the end of normal time, not extra time.
There is a recent Falcons connection in the Bedford squad in the shape of prop Darren Fearn, who moved south this summer after two seasons on Tyneside. Luke Fielden, now an established member of the Newcastle team, spent time with Bedford before returning to KP in 2010, and Will Chudley, now of Exeter but a Falcon last season, also came from Goldington Road.
Other names we might know from former Welsh international Mike Rayer’s squad are Don Barrell, a former Saracens flanker, and Ollie Dodge. Dodge graduated from the academy at Leicester, where his legendary father Paul made over 400 appearances while winning 32 England caps.
George Kruis, Will Fraser, Jackson Wray and new England call-up Mako Vunipola are all dual-registered from Saracens, as is winger James Short, among others. Captain James Pritchard has top flight experience with Northampton and Perpignan as well as almost a half-century of Canada caps, and is now in his second spell in Bedfordshire. Paul Tupai has also spent time with Northampton.
Obscure fact – according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, to “go for a Mike Rayer” means to “go on an all-dayer”.
Carlo del Fava’s injury means Sean Tomes comes into the starting line-up tomorrow, and Ryan Shortland makes his first start since pulling a hamstring in September and Mark Wilson is in for the crocked Will Welch, meaning Ally Hogg wears the metaphorical armband. Still no sign of James Hudson, and with no recognised second-rower on the bench, we can only assume he is injured, unless that has been confirmed and I’ve missed it.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Ally Hogg (c).
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 19 Chris York, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Jamie Helleur.
Fearn lines up for the Blues tomorrow, in his first match against his former Geordie employers.
Bedford: 15 James Prictchard (c), 14 Ben Ransom, 13 Brendan Burke, 12 Henry Staff, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jake Sharp, 9 Luke Baldwin, 1 Darren Fearn, 2 Neil Cochrane, 3 Phil Boulton, 4 Paul Tupai, 5 Mike Howard, 6 Gregor Gillanders, 7 Sacha Harding, 8 Don Barrell.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Ricky Reeves, 18 Dan Seal, 19 Alex Rae, 20 Darren Fox, 21 Ali Price, 22 Mark Atkinson.
Having been losing semi-finalists in the play-offs in each of the past three seasons, Bedford will be looking to go at least one better this season, and will no doubt be keen to take the Falcons’ scalp. Tomorrow should be a cracker and I for one can’t wait.
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