Yorkshire Carnegie’s next two Championship games against Jersey Reds at Headingley on Friday and the following Saturday at league leaders London Irish promise to be much tougher than the challenge Bedford offered in the second round of the B & I Cup at Sandhill Lane, the impressive home of Selby RUFC.
After a stuttering start, Carnegie’s forwards gained control and seldom relinquished it as the squad recovered from the poor performance a week earlier at Ealing Trailfinders.
This win, by eight tries to three, was dominated by one major talking point: a remarkable effort by prop Rob O’Donnell, who scored four tries on 22, 32, 40 and 48 minutes.
With six tries in the Championship, O’Donnell is the competition’s top try-scorer and the Liverpudlian – in his second season with Carnegie after spells at Waterloo, Sale Sharks, Rotherham Titans and Worcester Warriors – has turned his attention to causing mayhem in it.
O’Donnell, at 19st and 6ft 5in, is a frightening opponent but, as he said, he owes much to the hard work of his colleagues in the Carnegie pack.
“This is the first time I’ve scored four. To be fair, I’m in the right place at the right time and most of my tries come from mauls, so I benefit from the efforts of others. I’ve scored a few this year so far, so it’s going well for me. The team is looking strong, we are scrummaging well and eight out of 10 tries I score come from when I’m at the back of the maul.
“After the defeat at Ealing, we knew we had things to work on which we did before this game and we still have, but the boys are playing well and the backs looked sharp against Bedford.”
Overall, Carnegie defended effectively, apart from a couple of lapses, as on 28 minutes when a lack of concentration at a lineout on their line allowed replacement hooker George Edgson to exploit too much space as he scored the first of Bedford’s three tries in an entertaining contest.
Edgson’s try, then converted, created a Blues lead of 13-7, but once Carnegie’s pack had overcome their dithering and established authority, Bedford were frequently the victims of a superior all-round team.
The power of O’Donnell enabled him to complete a hat-trick before half-time, and in the second half Carnegie’s more creative use of possession set up five more tries – one more for O’Donnell, two for winger Taylor Prell and one each for centres Max Wright and Andy Forsyth, who dashed 60 metres to the line after Bedford lost control of the ball inside Carnegie territory.
Forsyth’s try in the 70th minute extended Carnegie’s control to 50-23 and Bedford suffered further because fly-half Warren Seals’ goal-kicking was regularly on target.
He struck six accurate conversions in addition to forming an intelligent half-back partnership with Max Green.
Bedford, to their credit, were beaten convincingly but their commitment was maintained and this endeavour was rewarded with a second and third try in the second half.
Replacement scrum-half Tom James shot through a gap after Carnegie had surprisingly lost a scrum and then, in the 74th minute, No8 Jason Hill charged over from a lineout, which was another reminder that Carnegie’s defence will need to be better organised in the league challenges ahead.
Yorkshire Carnegie: McColl, Goss, Forsyth, Casson (Wright 28), Prell, Seals (Allan 71), Green, Imiolek(Beech 54), M Mayhew (Graham 65), O’Donnell (Parker 54), Whetton (Smith 67), Sanderson, Burrows, R Mayhew(Beck 67), Stedman.
Bedford Blues: Gallagher, Tapley, Farrell, Griffiths, Perkins, Dorrian (Sharp 57), Whiteley, (T James 57), Parilli-Compo (Culverhouse 48), S James(Edgson 14), Judge (Spelman 48), Howard (Hodge 54), Carrick-Smith, Taylor, Blanchett (Thornton-Stringer 40), Hill.
Referee: F Kirby (RFU).