A last minute Jake Sharp try was enough to secure a dramatic 35-29 victory for Bedford Blues over Doncaster Titans at Goldington Road on Saturday.
Trailing 28-29 with seconds to play, Sharp found himself all alone on the right wing after the hosts battled their way to the opponents’ try line, and the fly-half collected a short pass from Pete White to give the Blues a win they deserved on their second half performance alone.
The dramatic victory lifts Bedford into the top half of the table for the first time of the season, as the Greene King IPA Championship season reaches its halfway point.
With all four of the Blues’ tries coming in the last 23 minutes, it means their impressive form continues as hopes of a top four finish look better by the week.
The match was a slow burner, as the first quarter provided limited line-breaking action.
Doncaster’s Dougie Flockhart looked to have his kicking boots on as he scored three penalties from all over the park, sending a message to the hosts that they couldn’t give away a penalty anywhere inside their own half, as points looked likely to be conceded.
In saying that, Bedford more than matched their Yorkshire opponents inside the first 20. Looking to play from anywhere, the Blues’ attacking play gave them good go forward ball.
James Pritchard managed to match Flockhart’s efforts, as he converted three penalties off his own to keep his side level inside the opening exchanges.
Yet after the opening scrap of both sides fighting for dominance, the match started to settle down.
However much to the frustration of those inside Goldington Road, it was the visitors who scored the only tries of the half.
A box kick by Veenendaal was run back by Piers Francis, as the Doncaster fly-half ran the ball back into the 22.
With a series of phases following, Latu Makaafi was on hand to bundle his way over the line for the first try of the afternoon.
Just before half time, Makaafi grabbed his and the Titans’ second try as he peeled his way round the ride of a rolling maul before showing his back-row strength to send the visitors in at 23-9 lead.
However, to the surprise of a side that have already beat Bedford twice this season, the home team played the second half of a side capable of breaking into the top four.
South African Veenendaal thought he scored inside the first few minutes of the half, but was penalised for a double movement when going over the try-line.
Flockhart then stretched the lead to 19 with a penalty after 46 minutes, but 10 minutes later, the Blues comeback began.
A strong run by Dean Adamson down the left gave the Blues territory inside their opponents’ 22, before the ball was flung to the right where the other winger, Pat Tapley, was waiting.
It looked like he was stopped at first by the opposition, but with help from Pritchard and Michael Le Bourgeois, he was shoved over to give the home side hope.
Five minutes later, Adamson was at it again down the left as his pace caused huge amounts of damage. It looked like he would be in to reduce the deficit again but Doncaster’s impressive full-back Paul Jarvis was deemed to kill the ball after making the tackle.
As a result, he was sent to the sin-bin, something that would prove costly for his side.
On 67 minutes, Adamson deservedly scored a try. With a five metre line-out well defended by the Titans’ pack, the ball was flung wide when superb offloading by Steffan Jones – who was on as a substitute to make his first appearance for the Blues since signing permanently – and Pritchard freed the former Ampthill player to step past his opponent to score.
Pritchard was unable to convert, but the Blues were now only one score behind.
Just two minutes, that score arrived. A terrible attempt of a chip by Francis was collected by Le Bourgeois on halfway.
It looked like he might be able to go all the way himself, but he was brilliantly stopped by George Catchpole just before the line.
However the resulting phase, Sharp bagged his first try of 2015 to level on the score board.
Pritchard’s conversion was good, and the Blues found themselves in the lead for the first time of the afternoon.
Doncaster, who lost in the closing stages of their match against Rotherham last week, regained their lead through another Flockhart penalty. The right-winger was outstanding with his right boot, converting all seven of his kicks at goal, with his last coming in the last five minutes to nudge them a point ahead.
It looked like they would get the win, before Sharp popped up with the last play of the match to ground the ball in the corner; and secure a bonus-point win for Bedford, to the delight of those inside Goldington Road.
Bedford: Johnny Harris (Tom Williams 57), Charlie Clare (TJ Harris 76), James Currie (Phil Boulton 57), Mike Howard, Ben Gulliver (Harry Wells 57), Justin Blanchet, Josh Buggea (Joe Vandermolen 57), Paul Tupai; Darryl Veenendaal (Peter White 64), Jake Sharp, Dean Adamson, Ollie Dodge (Steffan Jones 57), Mike Le Bourgeois, Pat Tapley, James Pritchard (C).
T: Pat Tapley, Dean Adamson, Jake Sharp x2. C: James Pritchard x3. P: James Pritchard x3.
Doncaster: Jack Bergmanas (Richard List 52), Ben Hunter (Villiame Veikoso 71), Colin Quigley (WillGriff John 52), Matthew Challinor (Tyler Hotson 60), Jon Phelan, Latu Makaafi, Michael Hills (C), Alex Shaw (Phil Eggleshaw 34); Brad Field (Bruno Bravo 44), Piers Francis (Paul Roberts 71), Andy Bulumakau, Bevon Armitage, George Catchpole, Dougie Flockhart, Paul Jarvis.
T: Latu Makaafi x2. C: Dougie Flockhart x2. P: Dougie Flockhart x5.
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Brian Ravenhill and Michael Patz