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Leinster Bow Out Of British & Irish Cup

Leinster Bow Out Of British & Irish Cup

The Irish provinces’ interest in this season’s British & Irish Cup came to an end this afternoon as Leinster fell a 50-15 defeat in their quarter-final clash with the Bedford Blues.

A four-try haul from winger Handre Schmidt helped the Bedford Blues overcome the challenge of Leinster at Goldington Road.

With their senior side playing less than 24 hours previously, Leinster's resources were stretched and Malcolm O'Kelly, the manager of the province's 'A' squad, came out of retirement to start in the second row against Bedford.

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The visitors began brightly with the forwards gaining the upper hand in the early exchanges. Young prop Jack McGrath and number 8 Leo Auva'a were to the fore early on.

But Bedford, who had ex-Leinster back Brendan Burke at outside centre, rallied. Danger man Schmidt broke the deadlock with a try in the corner in the 15th minute after a fast-paced back-line move.

Skipper James Pritchard's conversion attempt fell wide of the posts, yet the Canadian international made amends with a penalty four minutes later to make it 8-0 to the hosts.

From the restart, Schmidt capitalised on some indecision in the Leinster defence to sprint clear and touch down in the corner, with Pritchard's conversion attempt again falling across the upright.

Though 13 points in arrears, Leinster regrouped and an Ian McKinley tackle on big Kiwi number 8 Paul Tupai led to a turnover which resulted in McGrath almost touching down close to the Bedford posts, but the St. Mary's College clubman was unfortunate to spill the ball.

Then, in the 35th minute, winger Ollie Dodge struck for another Bedford try, with Pritchard's successful kick making it 20-0.

With three minutes to go before half-time, full-back Ian Madigan slotted home a penalty after an offside infringement to reduce the arrears to 17 points with the visitors facing an uphill battle to stay in the competition.

A brace of Pritchard penalties after 43 and 46 minutes pushed Bedford into a 26-3 lead. Credit to Leinster who dug in and first Michael Keating and then Eamonn Sheridan punched holes in the Bedford defence.

Eventually the spell of pressure was rewarded when Auva'a, who is a regular for Old Belvedere in the Ulster Bank League, took a quick tap penalty from 10 metres out and charged over the line for a 53rd minute try.

Madigan's conversion was successful to reduce the deficit for Colin McEntee's side to 16 points.

The fightback was shortlived though and former Cambridge winger Schmidt completed his hat-trick by scoring under the posts on the hour mark.

Pritchard added the extras before Schmidt ran in his fourth try in the 64th minute, with Bedford skipper Pritchard again converting as the hosts pulled clear.

A late try from Auva'a, who displayed great strength to break clear and score with six minutes to go, added some consolation for the visitors, though Pritchard added his seventh successful kick on an overcast afternoon in Bedfordshire.

Leinster finished their British & Irish Cup campaign on a further disappointing note when replacement Edd Thrower intercepted what looked to be a scoring pass for Leinster to sprint the length of the pitch in injury-time. Pritchard's conversion chalked up the half century for Bedford.

Referee: David Jones (Wales)