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East Midlands Plate Final

Never, Ever Give Up…..

Well , what can be said about the East Midlands Plate Final between Bedford and Kettering on Sunday

45 Minutes of despair, despondency and frustration and then, out of no-where, 5 minutes of pure exhilaration, excitement, sheer grit and determination when the Bedford team came to life. 5 minutes of astounding, never say die, passionate and committed rugby that we have been playing all season.

There are many platitudes in sport about “never give up”, “play right up until the whistle goes”, “never say die” and ultimately, “miracles can happen“.

One of the best quotes to summarise Sundays match probably comes from the legendary American golfer Ben Hogan,

“ If you can’t outplay them, outwork them” and that is exactly what Bedford did to Kettering.

Deprived of the ball for most of the match, Bedford stuck to their task and simply by the shear will and determination with which they applied themselves, simply out worked Kettering.

For 45 minutes Bedford looked like a team that had forgotten how to play rugby. Whether it was nerves, over eagerness or just anxious about wanting to win, Bedford were repeatedly over powered and out played by an excellent Kettering Team who had come to win.

For long passages of play, Kettering controlled the play denying Bedford the ball, forcing Bedford to defend and defend again as the Kettering 10 made the plays. Accurate kicking to gain territory, well won line outs supported by quick hands made life difficult for Bedford, who were dragged into defensive dog fight, leaving gaps that Kettering exploited.

When Bedford did gain possession, they were unable to take advantage: knock-on’s, balls spilt and turnovers. Penalties started to mount and when Bedford did make headway into the Kettering 22, they were unable to make their pressure count.

Kettering masterfully used their kicking game, putting the ball deep into the Bedford half, with a well-rehearsed chase to follow. Turning Bedford each time, they were just that split second behind the Kettering runners. This was to be the tactic used in their first 3 tries.

Bedford did manage to pull one back through their centre Jason who picked up a lose kick and stormed down the wing to touch down under the posts, Louis making the conversion before the half time whistle.

Half time score 7 – 19 to Kettering and time for Bedford to re-group

Que the half time team talk

2nd half started with a knock to one of the Kettering players, there was a long pause in play..

Once play resumed Kettering showed the same intensity as they did in the 1st half scoring soon after running through the Bedford defence without even been touched, not the start we had hoped for.

Bedford were starting to run out of ideas and were looking around for inspiration as Kettering put on a masterclass of rugby
Then came the last 5 minutes and what a five minutes. When everything looked to be slipping from Bedford, from somewhere, they got themselves together and found that inspiration

Whether it was anger at looking to be beaten so badly or from putting in a performance that was well below their best, somehow, Bedford started to play and how they did play.

First one try , then another , each coming from break away runs deep in Bedford’s own 22. The defence holding strong, winning the scrum and finally, finally letting the ball do the work and freeing up first Ben who put in a strong run just short of the line, scrum Bedford and some magic from our own 10, Louis spotting the gap to score under the posts, no time to run on the tee he slots the drop kick to add the extras to speed up the game. Then another from our outstanding 12 Jason to bring the score to 26-31.

By now, the Kettering supporters were growing quiet, the Bedford Mums and Dads, now shouting encouragement from the side lines, willing their boys to hold it together.

One try to level and a conversion to win. Last play calls the referee , who had been enforcing the laws of rugby to the letter all day. One knock on, a turnover to Kettering and the ball would be kicked out to end the game, securing Kettering their win. The tension was palpable.

But Bedford had a different end in mind. Sensing that they were on the ascendance, Kettering bemused by what had just happened, Bedford who had scored 3 tries in as many minutes, were hyped and ready to make this count.

Kettering kick off deep into Bedford 22 again, a tried and tested formula for them all afternoon. Straight into the arms of Dan a flanker who is powerful and fast, runs the ball up hard, quick ball from our 9 Tom to our 10 Louis, great line speed from Kettering Louis manages an over the top basketball pass to our 13 Reon, who has to sprint to the line.

Reon, running the length of the pitch, keeping going despite the weariness in his legs, pushed on by sheer will power ; over the line to score. Mobbed by every Bedford player, laughing and cheering but at 31-31, a draw was in the offering.

Up stepped Louis, nerves of steel. If he missed, the match would be decided on the toss of a coin, but Louis was never was going to let that happen. Struck sweetly and the ball passed perfectly between the posts.

Que the cheering from the crowd, coaches jumping into the air, arms raised, punching the sky , the boys hugging and congratulating one another, not quite believing what they had just done … maybe a few tears (from the Dads)

Today was a match that hopefully taught our boys some life lessons – the fact that you can overcome the odds, working hard does bring its rewards, don’t give up when things get tough, think and act positively and give your best even when it looks impossible.

What a great ending to a match that may be the last competitive rugby that our teams see for some time. Thank you also to Kettering for being superb opponents and we hope at Bedford that in the words of Doug Williams – American Football MVP Quarterback

“Never give up, never give in and when the upper hand is ours, may we have the ability to handle the win with the dignity that we absorbed the loss”

Bedford 33 – 31 Kettering

Tries: Reon x 2, Jason x 2, Louis
Conversions: Louis x 4