RUGBY UNION: Bedford pounce to end Welsh's 100 per cent record

Oxford Mail: Exiles’ replacement Alex Hepburn (above) is lifted of his feet by powerful Bedford tackle Exiles’ replacement Alex Hepburn (above) is lifted of his feet by powerful Bedford tackle

London Welsh’s 100 per cent record in the Greene King IPA Championship came to an end at Goldington Road after a pulsating finish saw the width of a post give Bedford Blues a 28-26 victory.

In a typically full-blooded encounter with Bedford Blues, Welsh trailed by six until Joe Ajwua muscled his way over from close range.

It was just reward for a sustained spell of pressure from the visitors, as was Alex Davies’s conversion to edge the Championship leaders back in front, 21-20, with eight minutes to go.

Frustratingly that hard work was undone by the immediate concession of a penalty to Mike Le Bourgeois, and Jake Sharp’s opportunistic try seemed to seal a memorable victory for the Blues.

However, Kevin Davis crashed over to leave Davies with a touchline conversion to secure a draw for the Exiles with the last kick of the game.

The Welsh scrum half celebrated as his strike sailed high towards goal, but crucially the referee’s assistants disagreed. It was a tight call, but Welsh’s winning start to the season was over.

Playing with fire in their bellies, and no little imagination, Bedford belied their poor start to season.

But for Welsh the frustration will come not from seeing their record ended, but the manner in which the defeat came – the Exiles the architects of their own downfall at times.

None more so than when missed tackles allowed winger Patrick Tapley to cross twice in a three-minute first-half spell, while Sharp’s late score came from a Welsh error.

Attacking down Goldington Road’s prodigious slope in the first half, Welsh took a 6-3 lead with two penalties by Davies to one from Le Bourgeois.

Exiles scored the first try when Mitch Lees punctured a hole before quick hands from Seb Stegmann, Tom May, Gordon Ross and Sonny Parker sent Nick Scott over in the corner.

The home side responded as Tapley burst clean through poor tackling to score two tries in three crazy minutes. Le Bourgeois added the extras Welsh saw an eight-point lead turned into a 17-11 deficit.

Welsh had the final word of the half as Davies landed a penalty to cut the deficit to three points.

Early in the second half, Davies’s charged down box-kick led to Welsh being caught offside and gave Le Bourgeois the chance to restore Bedford’s six-point lead with a penalty.

Beginning to dominate territory and possession, Welsh were cranking up the pressure, but getting little change from a fiercely-committed Bedford defence.

A soft penalty for throwing the ball away allowed Welsh to keep the home side pinned in their own 22. This time they would find a way through, via Joe Ajuwa, with the winger driving over from close range.

Davies converted, but Welsh celebrations were frustratingly short-lived as the immediate concession of a penalty allowed Le Bourgeois to kick Bedford back in front.

All seemed lost when Sharp pounced on a poor pass that bounced short and sat up perfectly for replacement to collect in his stride and sprint clear. Le Bourgeois couldn’t convert, and that left Welsh with a glimmer of hope.

Despite the home crowd baying for the final whistle there was still time to play. Welsh made ground through Stegmann, and set up a grandstand finish when Davis powered over. This time, though, Davies couldn’t come to Welsh’s rescue.

Bedford Blues: Le Bourgeois,  Tapley, Burke (Sharp 57), Dodge,  Short,  Atkinson, Baldwin (Veenendaal 66), Fearn (Steenkamp 55), Clare (Harris 70), Cooper (Boulton 49), Howard (Gulliver 49), Tupai (capt), Jubb (Ames 60), Hankin, Fenton-Wells.
London Welsh: Jewell, Stegmann,  May (capt), Parker (Lewis 57), Scott (Ajuwa 66), Ross, Davies, Trevett (Hepburn 53), Morris (Davis 55), Edwards (Tideswell 53), Lees, Nimmo (West 67), Thorpe, Kirwan, Browne (Stedman 57).
Referee: J Meredith.
Attendance: 2,599.

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