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FULL TIME: Nottingham Rugby 21 Bedford Blues 23


NOTTINGHAM'S season came to an end with a 21-23 play-off defeat at the hands of Bedford in front of one of the biggest rugby crowds Meadow Lane has yet hosted.

There was no shortage of drama and tension as the Green and Whites staged a heroic second half fightback, but by then they had given themselves far too much to do.

They went into the second leg trailing Blues by nine points, but a disastrous first half saw them go in at the break needing to outscore their opponents by a massive thirty points.

They certainly gave it a serious go, throwing everything into attack and restricting the visitors to a single Myles Dorrian penalty, but it was not enough to overturn that deficit and they finished up twelve points short of their target.

They could hardly have had a worse start as a loose pass on halfway left winger James Short with a clear run to the posts, with Dorrian making up for an earlier penalty miss by slotting over the conversion.

And Dorrian added a couple of penalties to give his side a 13-nil lead by the half hour mark, with Nottingham struggling to find any rhythm, and making far too many mistakes.

Several good positions and half chances were wasted before the visitors forced a second try on the stroke of half time.

It came from a close range scrum, and it was scrum half Luke Baldwin who found the gap and got the touchdown.

Dorrian's conversion gave Blues a 20-point advantage as the sides went in at half time.

The second half, though, could hardly have been a sharper contrast as the Green and Whites played with an intensity they had struggled to muster during the first period.

An early close range lineout brought a try as Alex Lewington tore the defence apart to give James Arlidge a simple conversion.

Just four minutes later they doubled their total as Joe Duffey powered his way up to the line. He was tackled short, but the pack was up in support with impressive pace and drove Dan Montagu over under the posts, Arlidge again converting.

Dorrian's penalty briefly stemmed the home charge, but a sweeping Nottingham attack eventually brought another try as David Jackson and replacement Andy Forsyth cut through.

Although that move was held up, Nottingham kept play in the visitors' half and when they moved the ball across to the left wing Rhys Crane raced to the corner.

Arlidge did particularly well with the touchline conversion to leave just two points separating the sides.

They will kick themselves for not taking the lead as the game moved into injury time though.

Tim Streather beat the defence with a clever chip, gathered the ball cleanly and had the Bedford defence beaten for pace. With Jackson racing up in support, and with a clear run for the line, the pass went behind him and Nottingham's last chance was lost.

And so the curtain came down, and there were some emotional scenes as the crowd showed their appreciation for that second half effort, and bade farewell to a number of heroes.

Every one of those home supporters would have taken a second place finish at the start of the season, but that second half gave a glimpse of what might have been.

In the end though, it wasn't quite enough, and all any of us can do now is to wish Bedford the best of luck for the final, and look forward to a new season.


Nottingham Rugby: Jackson, Lewington, Streather, Munro (sub: Forsyth 58 mins), Crane, Arlidge, Romans; Parr, Duffey (sub:  Malton 58 mins), Holford, Montagu, Rouse, Cooper (sub: Calladine, 58 mins), Wilson, Shaw.

Replacements not used: Bower, Price, Lee-Everton, Lynn.

Nottingham Rugby 21 (Lewington, Montagu, Crane try; Arlidge 3 Conv.) Bedford Blues 23 (Short, Baldwin tries; Dorrian 2 Conv; Dorrian 3 Pens)

Referee: M Fox. Attendance: 3,070


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