Bedford Blues booked their place in the Championship play-off semi-finals after picking up a losing bonus point in a narrow defeat against second-placed Doncaster Knights at Castle Park.
Jersey’s failure to beat Ealing Trailfinders meant that they can’t overtake the Blues irrespective of the results on the final day of the regular season next weekend.
Blues made a flying start and the first of their tries was scored after just 30 seconds as Myles Dorrian touched down for the fastest try of the season at Castle Park, before converting his own score.
Doncaster had to wait until the 13th minute to open their account with a Declan Cusack penalty, after blindside prop Phil Boulton – who was making his 200th appearance for the Blues – was sin-binned.
Blues hit back when Steffan Jones touched down out wide, and Dorrian made it 14-3 with the resulting conversion.
The Knights responded well and second-rower Matt Challinor powered his way over to scoreon 32 minutes, but Cusack missed the kick.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men again when loosehead prop Tom Williams was sin-binned just before the break, and the Knights quickly took advantage as leading try-scorer Latu Makaafi raced in from 15 metres out within two minutes of the restart.
Cusack added the extras to give his side the lead at 15-14, and Bedford found themselves down to 13 men when Mike Howard was also sin-binned.
Doncaster extended their lead to 22-14 with a close-range converted try by Clark, but Dorrian clawed three points back with a 54th minute penalty.
Knights, who had Jon Phelan sin-binned, found themselves under pressure and Blues scrum-half Jordan Burns sent centre Tom Griffiths racing through a gap 22 metres out to level the scores.
Jake Sharp added the extras, but a brace of Cusack penalties ultimately sealed Bedford’s fate.