BEDFORD BLUES 16 ULSTER 'A' 10
Ulster A, sponsored by CD Group, have bowed out of the British & Irish Cup at the Quarter-Final stage, following a titanic tussle with Bedford Blues at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.
Ulster started the game brightly with some well worked phases and good carries, but it was the Blues who opened the scoring when Will Hooley slotted a seventh minute penalty after the visitors were pinged at the ruck.
On 25 minutes the visitors crossed the whitewash, with hooker Adam McBurney finishing off a well executed lineout maul. Peter Nelson added the extra two points.
Two minutes before the interval Bedford forced a penalty inside the Ulster '22, and Hooley opted for the posts, before slotting his third successful goal kick at the 40 minute mark.
From the restart Ulster immediately won a penalty of their own, which Nelson fired over to put the Ulster men 9-10 to the good at half-time.
On 49 minutes Bedford full-back Rich Lane got the game's crucial score, cutting through the Ulster defence to touch down in the corner. Hooley's conversion put Bedford 16-10 in front, and would prove to be the final score of the game.
In the final ten minutes Ulster piled on the pressure, spending prolonged periods inside the opposition '22 but were unable to find the finishing touch, with Angus Curtis coming closest but being held up over the line.
Commenting after the game, Ulster A coach Willie Anderson said:
"We knew they would be very good up front and that we need to get width to our game and keep it fluid. We had to match them up front and in fairness to the pack I thought they were outstanding.
"We were held up late on and that was very disappointing because if we had have scored we would have won the match.
"I said to them afterwards that we are proud of them and they have come a long way, I couldn't have faulted any of the guys."
Reflecting on the British & Irish Cup campaign, Anderson added:
"I think it's been fantastic and we need our players to play at this level more often as it's a step up from club rugby.
"Also I think the number of young fellas we've blooded and who stood up to the task and have really excelled has been fantastic and that's been the most pleasing thing for Ulster going forward.
"You couldn't fault the effort and that's very important for us."
Bedford will now face an away trip to Ealing Trailfinders in the final four, while Jersey will host Leinster A in the other semi-final.
(1-8): Sean McCarthy, Jacob Fields, Dave Spelman, Jordan Onojaife, Will Carrick-Smith, Alex Rae, Huw Worthington, Jarad Williams;
(9-15): Jordan Burns, Will Hooley, Dean Adamson, Michael Le Bourgeois (Capt), Rory Hutchinson, Howard Packman, Rich Lane.
Replacements: George Edgson, Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, Alex Penny, Paul Tupai, Justin Blanchet, Elliot Clements-Hill, Harry Sheppard.
(1-8): Tommy O'Hagan, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane (Capt), Matthew Dalton, Peter Browne, Marcus Rea, Clive Ross, Greg Jones;
(9-15): David Shanahan, Peter Nelson, Aaron Cairns, Angus Curtis, Callum Patterson, Angus Kernohan, Jack Owens.
Replacements: Alexander Clarke, Eric O'Sullivan, Tom O'Toole, Jack Regan, Matthew Agnew, Jonny Stewart, James Hume.