With several of Northampton’s hottest prospects either on-loan or dual-registered this season with Saints’ partner club, Bedford Blues, we round up the best of the latest action...
It a first home defeat for Bedford since Boxing Day 2019 as the Championship outfit closed out their 2021 preseason preparations against Ampthill on Saturday; but with 13 Saints in tow, the second local derby in as many weeks was far from a low-scoring affair – with the visitors eventually running out 36-21 winners at Goldington Road.
After getting their preseason off to a flying start in the reverse fixture last weekend, Blues couldn’t complete the Bedfordshire derby double after an early 19-0 deficit proved too much to overcome.
Two quick tries from Pat Tapley and Elijah Niko just before half-time gave the home side some hope, but a clinical Ampthill would add two further scores to their tally after the break to claim the win despite Bedford’s late effort through James Lennon.
Bedford’s pack boasted a Black, Green and Gold flavour this weekend as James Fish, Lewis Bean, JJ Tonks and Tui Uru all made the starting line-up, while Connor Tupai marshalled things from scrum-half with Ryan Olowofela and Reuben Bird-Tulloch outside him at wing and centre respectively.
The home side struggled to get off the mark, and found themselves 19 points adrift before the half-hour mark had arrived; Ampthill implemented their signature lineout drive cleanly, sending a maul over just six minutes in, before two close-range shoves saw the away side over twice more in quick succession.
But the game seemed to open up just before the break and Bedford wasted no time making the most of the space, setting Rich Lane through a gap before the offload came to Tapley for the final sprint to the line.
And Olowofela got the hosts close just moments later before swift hands through the Blues’ midfield saw Niko over for Bedford’s second on the stroke of half-time.
Jack Hughes, Ed Prowse, Ollie Newman, Tommy Mathews, Josh Gillespie, and Ethan Grayson all got a taste of the action in the second 40, and it was dominance in the Saints-bolstered scrum which gave Bedford a foothold to fight back.
But ill-discipline saw Ampthill edge clear again, with a drop goal extending their lead further before another push from close range and an intercept score took the away side’s tally to five tries.
And though Bedford added a well-worked late score through Lennon, replacement fly-half Mathews’ conversion with the clock in the red wasn’t enough to overturn the result.
Bedford’s attentions must quickly turn to the first round of the Greene King IPA Championship, with the side making the short trip to Coventry in the season opener next Saturday (6 March).