A vociferous and partisan crowd of 1,875 watched one of the best games of rugby ever seen at Caldy’s Paton Field.
It promised to be a game of power versus pace and for the first 30 minutes it was just that with Caldy’s power prevailing. A kick off by the Blues sailed directly into touch and from the ensuing scrum on the halfway line the Caldy pack demolished the Bedford eight and the pattern of the game was seemingly set.
Under pressure, Bedford were conceding penalties and after five minutes, scrum half Chris Pilgrim touched down behind Caldy’s driving maul with Elliott Gourlay converting.
Although a yellow card for Pilgrim brought the Blues back into it with a try by Sean French converted by William Maisey, Caldy also prospered in Pilgrims’s absence with a well-worked backs try sparked by an incisive break by Man of the Match Elliot Gourlay and finished by Louis Beer.
Caldy pulled further ahead with a try by the impressive Adam Aigbokhae, with an opportunity for another as a further Bedford transgression should have set up Caldy for a lineout catch and drive. The touch kick fell inches the wrong side of the line and Bedford capitalised on the let off with a score by Matthew Worley. 21-14 at the break with all to play for.
The first half had followed the script, with Caldy’s forwards in the ascendancy in both the tight and in the loose. One crunching midfield tackle by prop Nathan Rushton, which demolished a threatening Bedford attack was typical of the commitment and physicality shown by Caldy.
But it wasn’t all brute force, throughout the 40 minutes Hayes and Gourlay had sparked a number of expansive moves to both delight the home supporters and add to what was becoming a thrilling game of top-class rugby.
The Blues started the second half at full throttle. Quick-fire tries from Kieran Curran and Sean French from typical fizzing and inventive Blues’ play put the visitors seven points ahead and for the first time Caldy were being outpaced and outmanoeuvred by a rampant and increasingly confident Bedford.
For ten minutes it was difficult to see how the Ravers’ power could deal with Bedford at their attacking best. The Paton Field crowd loved the spectacle but were increasingly concerned by the change of momentum.
As an incessant and compelling wave of offloading attacks by the Bedford ‘Globetrotters’ threatened to take the game away from the Ravers, Caldy did an unexpected switcheroo. Adopting Bedford’s style of play wasn’t in anyone’s pre-match prognosis and the change of tactics and personnel by the home side completely changed the complexion of the contest.
Power and pragmatism gave way to an exciting and adventurous 30 minutes of all-action rugby by Caldy, orchestrated by live wire Lewis Barker. It was tremendous. The pace, accuracy and continuity of Caldy’s exciting back play lit up Paton Field.
Elliott Gourlay again split open the Bedford defence and ran with such purpose and determination to get the Ravers within two points of the visitors.
Another sizzling move sent Dan Bibby over only for the score to be chalked off for a previous infringement. It was breathless and uplifting and all Caldy. Ten minutes to go and 3 points needed for a famous victory, could 1,500 Caldy fans hold their breath for that long?
Nick Royle seemed certain to score but a brilliant tackle by the Bedford winger knocked the diving flier into touch. When backs and forwards combined to drive Ollie Hearn over the roar from the Bank was heard in Flint.
With a 3-point lead and a minute remaining Bedford went for broke, providing the opportunity for scrum half Joe Murray to intercept and race away from the despairing Bedford chasers for what seemed certain to be his debut Championship try.
The pass to Nick Royle was accurate, unselfish and almost certainly unnecessary, but typified the Ravers’ team spirit. As the Caldy winger raced to the corner he stopped millimetres from the dead ball line and stood for a moment in quiet contemplation. Smiling at the home crowd, Nick Royle carefully placed the ball on the turf before being engulfed by his fellow Ravers.
36-28 to Caldy in just the best game of rugby ever seen at Paton Field
Image: Mac Baz Images