RFU Championship: Cornish Pirates 35 Bedford Blues 34
Bertie Hopkin’s try three minutes from time, converted by former Bedford fly-half Kieran Hallett, denied the Blues victory in a nine-try British and Irish Cup thriller at the Mennaye Field.
The lead changed hands six times in a pool game the crowd could not take their eyes off, but at least the Blues had the satisfaction of making the long journey home with two bonus points under their belts.
Bedford had major problems at set-piece time, with a misfiring line-out - where Pirates’ 6ft 11in lock Will Carrick-Smith was dominant - and a scrum coming under enormous pressure, asthey were indebted to their dangerous back division for keeping them in the game as they scored all five of their side’s tries.
Pirates took the lead after only 11 minutes when winger Kieran Goss intercepted a Blues pass close to his own line and ran 95 metres to score a try, which Hallett converted.
Blues hit back straight away when full-back Jim Wigglesworth wriggled his way over the line, and fly-half Steffan Jones added the extras.
Hallett restored Pirates’ lead with a penalty, but good hands by Mike Le Bourgeois and Wigglesworth put winger Pat Tapley in for a try, converted superbly from the touchline by Jones, to make it 14-10 to the visitors.
A 40-metre penalty by Hallett cut the deficit to one point, before a catch-and-drive line-out resulted in a touchdown for openside flanker Alex Cheesman to give the Cornishmen an 18-14 interval lead.
Hallett extended the gap to seven points early in the second half with a penalty, but Tongan centre Viliami Hakalo cut a lovely angle to cross in the corner after a line-out move, only for Jones to miss the conversion to leave Bedford still two points adrift.
Just past the hour mark he did find the target to put Bedford 22-21 ahead, but they then lost lock Harry Wells to the sin-bin for a professional foul, and Pirates immediately capitalised with a second try for Cheesman from a catch-and-drive, with Hallett converting to make it 28-22.
Bedford hit back in grand style with two chip-and-gather tries in the space of three minutes, first from winger Dean Adamson and the second from Jones, and with Jones converting one, Bedford suddenly led 32-28 with only nine minutes remaining.
However, the loss of Pirates prop Tyler Gendall to injury in the closing stages saw the game go to uncontested scrums, and with time fast running out, replacement back Hopkin took a fizzing pass to score in the corner, and Hallett smashed over a superb conversion to snatch a dramatic victory for the hosts.
Cornish Pirates: C Holland (L May 49), K Goss, A Dancer, R James, L Jones, K Hallett, T Kessell, J Ford-Robinson (J Andrew 62), T Channon, T Gendall (B Hopkin 73), W Graulich (A Carpenter 73), W Carrick-Smith (J Atkinson 70), C Morgan (capt), A Cheesman, T Lowry (J Parker 15). Replacement not used: O Snook.
Tries: Goss, Cheesman (2), Hopkin. Cons: Hallett (3). Pens: Hallett (3).
Bedford Blues: J Wigglesworth (O Dodge 65), P Tapley, M Le Bourgeois, V Hakalo, D Adamson, S Jones, D Veenendaal (P White 72), T Williams (B Moss 43), J Saunders (TJ Harris 54), C Parilli-Ocampo (J Currie 54), H Wells, E Sheriff (M Howard 62), J Vandermolen (J Buggea 62), J Blanchet, N Fenton-Wells (capt).
Tries: Wigglesworth, Tapley, Hakalo, Adamson, Jones. Cons: Jones (3). Pen: Jones.
Yellow cards: Wells 64.
Referee: Andy Rawson (RFU).