Bedford Blues suffered their first home defeat of the season as they narrowly lost 13-18 to the Doncaster Knights at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues went in to half-time with a 13-3 lead courtesy of a converted Joel Conlon try and two penalties from the boot of Jake Sharp.
However, six penalties from the boot of the Championship’s leading point scorer, Dougie Flockhart, proved enough for the Knights to secure their seventh consecutive win in all competitions.
Bedford almost made the breakthrough early on after some fine link-up play between Sam James and Josh Buggea which sent the hooker on a surging run upfield to gain some valuable ground which resulted in the Blues picking up a penalty from their first attacking line out of the game.
Sharp set himself up for his first kick at the posts but the blustery wind carried the ball on to the upright, giving the visitors the opportunity to clear their lines.
The Blues kept the pressure on the Knights defence and five minutes after they made the breakthrough courtesy of a Conlon try. The number eight picked up the ball in the breakdown after Doncaster were turned over and Conlon set his sights for the line as he charged through the remaining three defenders before dotting the ball down. Sharp added the extras.
Bedford extended their lead just minutes later when they picked up a penalty from the breakdown and Sharp made no mistakes as he sent it over the posts to extend the Blues lead to 10 points.
Doncaster looked to respond with a try as they had men over in attack as they edged closer up field but the ball was knocked on and referee Tim Wigglesworth brought the game back for the penalty advantage. Flockhart sent over his first kick of the game, bringing the deficit back down to seven points.
The Knights’ revival was short-lived, though, as Bedford picked up another penalty immediately after the restart after some constant pressure from Phil Boulton in the ruck caused the visitors to hold on to the ball and Sharp sent the penalty whistling over the upright from close range.
Doncaster fought back and they picked up a penalty from the scrum which saw the visitors set up a dangerous attack but once again the ball was knocked on in the final phases of the attack and Bedford were awarded the scrum.
After some terrific work from the pack Bedford were also awarded a penalty from the scrum and Steffan Jones looked set to send it over the posts from 60 metres out but his kick fell just short of the posts allowing Doncaster to regroup.
Bedford carried on looking for another breakthrough but some fantastic defending from the visitors held the Blues at arms-length as they picked up a number of penalties.
The visitors pinned the Blues back in their own half time and time again but Doncaster failed to make anything of the possession as the whistle blew for half-time, with Bedford going in to the break with the score at 13-3.
Doncaster came out in the second half knowing full well they had the advantage of the wind this time and it didn’t take long for them to make it count. Bedford kicked to touch and the following line out resulted in the Knights picking up a kickable penalty which Flockhart sent over, making it 13-6.
Bedford made too many errors in the first half and this proved to be the same in the second half as moments later Doncaster picked up another penalty from the scrum – but Flockhart’s effort went just wide of the posts allowing Bedford the opportunity to break with the ball from their own 22 but the attack was stopped after the Blues passed it forward.
Bedford faced a tough task in the scrum all afternoon and it proved the same once again as they gave away another penalty which Flockhart sent to touch. T
he resulting line out saw Doncaster set up a dangerous driving maul but the Blues pack held strong, keeping the maul at arms-length but the referee brought the game back for the penalty advantage and Doncaster re-grouped and set up once again but they failed to make any serious ground and the ball was knocked on over the line.
Doncaster were awarded the put-in at the following scrum and the Blues were penalised once again. Flockhart sent the ball to touch but the referee spotted infringement in the resulting line out and the Blues were awarded a penalty of their own which they used to clear their lines.
However, the following line out was judged not to be straight and Flockhart sent the penalty over the posts, bringing the score to 13-9 after 60 minutes.
The Blues struggled to find their way out of their own half and moments later they were penalised for an incident in the line out and Flockhart sent the ball over the uprights and this meant that the Knights were only trailing by one point.
Bedford didn’t let their heads drop, though, as they were straight back on the attack after the restart but the Doncaster defence looked solid, leaving the Blues backs frustrated as they couldn’t find a way through and Flockhart picked up yet another penalty which he sent over the posts – confidently putting his side in the lead for the first time in the game.
Blues’ fate was sealed in the 75th minute as the referee awarded yet another penalty, but this time it was for an illegal tackle and Flockhart sent the ball over the posts once again, taking the score line to 13-18 with less than five minutes on the clock.
Bedford had one more opportunity to attack and with the possibility of a converted try winning the game for the Blues, Myles Dorrian picked up possession before sending the ball over the Doncaster back line but Doncaster held on to possession before referee Wigglesworth sounded the whistle for full time.
Bedford Blues: 15. Steffan Jones 14. Pat Tapley 13. Tom Griffiths (Le Bourgeois 61) 12. Ollie Dodge 11. George Perkins 10. Jake Sharp (Dorrian 75) 9. Pete White (Burns 53) 1. Alex Lundberg 2. Sam James (Clare 61) 3. Phil Boulton (Parilli- Ocampo 61) 4. Harry Wells (Tupai 78) 5. Mark Flanagan (Howard 53) 6. Nick Fenton-Wells C 7. Josh Buggea 8. Joel Conlon.
Doncaster Knights: 15. Paul Jarvis 14. Dougie Flockhart 13. Mat Clark 12. Will Hurrell 11. Tyson Lewis 10. Declan Cusack 9. Michael Heaney 1. Richard List (Bergmanas 61) (Willgriff John 65) 2. Ben Hunter (Veikoso 80) 3. Colin Quigley 4. Matt Chalinor 5. Jon Phelan (Young 80) 6. Alex Shaw 7. Michael Hills C 8. Ollie Stedman (Maakafi 56)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.