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Blues & Lightning: Loughborough strike late to claim dramatic Gardens win

We round up all the action from Northampton Saints’ partner club, Bedford Blues, and our joint Saints / Loughborough Lightning side in the Championship and Premier 15s competitions…

Kabeya’s late brace ends Double Header with a bang

Back rower Sadia Kabeya scored two late tries to snatch a 28-25 victory for Loughborough Lightning against Exeter Chiefs, in what was their first-ever fixture at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

It was Loughborough’s seventh win from their last eight games in the Allianz Premier 15s and it closed them to within five points of their opponents, as the result moved them up to fifth in the table.

In a match that followed Northampton Saints’ Gallagher Premiership clash against Sale Sharks, Lightning full-back Fran Goldthorp had made a try-saving tackle by the time the hosts opened the scoring after nine minutes.

It came from close quarters, as tighthead prop Charli Jacoby forced her way over the line after a succession of pick-and-goes, with Helena Rowland adding the conversion.

Exeter fought back strongly and it took some strong defence to keep them at bay, but the pressure eventually told in the 33rd minute when their co-captain Kate Zackery barged over following a tapped penalty.

Meg Foster’s conversion levelled the score at 7-7, but Lightning regained the lead in style right on half-time when Goldthorp gathered a loose ball and raced away to run in from 60 metres.

Rowland converted again to leave the hosts 14-7 in front at the break, but the gap was reduced to four points by Foster’s penalty five minutes into the second half.

The game was then turned around in the 49th minute when a flowing move led to Kanako Kobayashi feeding former Lightning back rower Liv Jones to score an unconverted try.

It was all Chiefs at this point and after Loughborough had captain Lark Davies sin-binned, following a succession of team infringements, Foster kicked another penalty for the visitors.

They appeared to have a match-winning lead when Hope Rogers powered over from close range for Exeter’s third try just after the hour mark, which was converted by Foster.

At 24-15 down and with time ticking away, things were looking bleak for the hosts, but they had some renewed hope with just under five minutes left when Kabeya crashed over after a succession of carries.

Rowland added the extras before Lightning won it at the death when Kabeya blasted her way through to score under the posts, with Rowland’s conversion confirming a memorable win.

Loughborough return to Epinal Way on Saturday, when they host Gloucester-Hartpury as they look to further boost their play-off hopes.

Blues surrender lead to promotion-chasing Pirates

There was frustration in the Championship for Bedford Blues, however, as they were defeated 20-12 by title chasers Cornish Pirates at Goldington Road after leading for the majority of the contest.

There were three players from Northampton Saints in Bedford’s squad, with Ollie Newman in the starting line-up and Connor Tupai and Ed Prowse among their replacements.

There was just one score in the first half and it went the way of the Blues in the 22nd minute, after their defence had withstood some early pressure from the Pirates.

Alex Day collected following a driving maul before passing to Joel Matavesi – brother of Saints hooker Sam – who fed his fellow centre Reuben Bird-Tulloch to go over, despite a juggle.

With chances few and far between, the hosts retained a 5-0 lead into half-time, but they were handed a man advantage in the opening minutes of the second half when Antonio Kiri Kiri was sin-binned.

They quickly made the most of this, as former Saints youngster Bird-Tulloch flung a lovely pass to Matt Worley, who beat his would-be tackler before setting up captain Richard Lane to go over.

Louis Grimoldby’s conversion extended the lead to 12-0 before the Pirates’ pressure was finally rewarded by Arwel Robson putting them on the board with a penalty.

The Blues’ defence, which performed heroics at times, finally gave out in the 72nd minute when the restored Kiri Kiri barged his way over to score, with Robson’s conversion reducing the gap to two points.

With the Pirates getting on top at the scrum, Robson slotted a penalty from in front of the posts to give the visitors the lead for the first time with five minutes left.

Bedford were then left without even a losing bonus point to show for their efforts in the closing stages, as a high ball went loose allowing Robson putting Shae Tucker through a gap for the clinching score, which Robson converted.

The Blues are on their travels this weekend, as they head to Lady Bay to face Nottingham on Sunday.

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