and fortitude are two words that probably don’t do justice to the Bedford VII’s
performance in Oakham on Sunday 26 February 2017.  With the prospect of
seven games and 11 players, they were already playing against the odds, and the
prospect of reaching the final looked improbable but not impossible.  The
odds worsened when Oliver Hind withdrew through injury in the first game and
Alex Shepherd in the second.  To add to their woes further all group
stages were played on a pitch so small it could barely be described as a junior
pitch.  This meant the group games were going to have a high physical
element and be more of an arm wrestle than a flowing game of sevens.

Bedford adapted well and produced a superb second half display to beat the
Oakham B team; a nice opener.  Stowe, the finalists from last year, were
up next and brought another level of physicality.  Bedford worked hard to
create chances but no space on the pitch meant that any opportunity was quickly
shut down.  Stowe managed to bully their way over the try line on more
than one occasion, and a nicely worked third try by them sealed the win. 
Bedford were left to reflect on the performance, and a couple of key lessons
learned but also took heart from producing a superbly worked try shortly before
the full-time whistle.

Now down
to nine, player rotation was key to keep everyone as fresh as possible. 
With players rolling on and off in varying and often unfamiliar positions, the
boys reacted well seeing off Leicester Grammar School by 43 points to nil and
could reflect on an excellent defensive display that stifled the opposition of
any ball.

was the final test of the group stages, with both teams needing to win if they
were to progress into the cup quarter final.  Stamford were another hugely
physical side who managed to keep the game to 7 all until the final minute of
the game.  Bedford possession and neat ball movement finally paid off
leading to a winning score and set up a quarter-final match against Royal
Hospital School (RHS).

It took
Bedford a while to get used to the slightly bigger pitch and found themselves
down an early score after getting caught too narrow in defence.  However,
Bedford regrouped and started to move the ball well, creating opportunities in
attack which were duly finished.  A superb tackle back by Aaron Borland
stopped any hint of a potential comeback by RHS and Bedford closed out the game
33-12 winners.

semi-final was now on a full-size pitch against hosts Oakham.  This proved
to be a ding-dong battle as Oakham’s physicality kept them in the game, and the
still nine Bedford boys were showing signs of fatigue.  However, it was
Bedford who were in control for most of the game and closed out a nervy finish
to win 21-19.

final was against their group victors Stowe.  But the second game of the
day seemed an age away, and we were now playing on a full sized pitch.  A
beaten, battered and mostly injured Bedford VII started the game at an
exceptional pace and scored within the first minute.  Two more tries
followed in the next four minutes, and the VII had a comfortable 21-0
lead.  Jack Dalton, who had been outstanding all tournament, converted all
three in very challenging conditions knowing that every point would be
vital.  However, Stowe still looked dangerous and scored an unconverted
try of their own on the stroke of half-time, and the game certainly wasn’t
over.  The second half came, and the Bedford players were now calling on
all reserves to close out the game.  Stowe scored a well-worked try as
they caught the Bedford defence out of shape.  Bedford, however, were once
more in possession, creating space and exploiting gaps. As they were building
an attack, Ben Kight lost the ball in a seemingly dangerous tackle and while
the Bedford players stopped for the imminent penalty, a Stowe player picked up
the loose ball and trotted in for a try, which was awarded by the
referee.  With Kight off the field and the squad down to eight Bedford
managed to close out the final two minutes of the game for a simply heroic win.


Joe Wallace
Oliver Hind
Marcus Lake
Conor Finch
Felix Iles
Aaron Borland
Jack Dalton (Captain)
Ed Johnson
Faysal Olabooye
Ben Kight
Alexander Shepherd


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