Bedford Blues returned from a week off with a trip up to Yorkshire to face Doncaster Knights on Sunday lunchtime, hoping to build upon their convincing victory against Richmond a fortnight ago.
An entirely new front row for Mike Rayer’s side was the main focus point before the game and they were in the thick of the action in the early stages as the Blues started strongly.
The Knights – in third place in the Greene King IPA Championship – were under the cosh from the beginning; a series of penalties resulting in an early yellow card for Connor Joyce.
The early pressure told, with Oli Robinson crashing over to give the Blues a tenth minute lead, with Will Maisey kicking the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
A second try soon followed for the free-flowing Blues; the impressive Tom Litchfield powering through the 22, with 20-year old Josh Gillespie’s pace enough to bounce over via a wonderful offload from Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas.
At 12-0 down, Doncaster knew they had to get in the game and they did just that with a try from full-back Billy McBryde, despite strong suspicions of a forward pass in the build-up.
This fast flowing game suited Bedford’s attacking ways, and although the Knights made a couple of quick breaks themselves, the Blues were able to counter with style, adding a third try.
Ollie Newman was the man to bundle the ball over under the posts, but they were unable to take the momentum into the break, with Doncaster responding immediately through captain Matt Challinor.
With the Blues starting the day in 8th place in the Greene King IPA Championship, they had been underdogs but were proving their worth in every possible way, leading 19-12 at half-time.
The Knights came flying out of the blocks in the second half, dominating the first ten minutes of the second period; and were rewarded with a try for Will Holling, with the Blues lead cut to just two points.
Bedford were holding firm in the face of the Doncaster attack, but their task was made more difficult as Ollie Newman was yellow carded for a poor tackle on Sam Olver.
Olver picked himself up to slot home the resulting penalty to give Doncaster the lead for the first time in the match – by a single point – with fifteen minutes remaining.
The hosts were dominating territory and set up camp in the Bedford half, but with five minutes remaining, the Blues could hold out no more, as Doncaster scored their fourth try; McBryde with his second of the afternoon.
It was a valiant effort from Bedford; with flashes of their well renowned flair, but the Knights proved too strong, especially in the second half, keeping their play-off hopes alive in securing a 27-19 victory.
Elsewhere in the Championship, Saracens and Ealing continued their ascent to the play-offs with dominant victories against Nottingham and Richmond respectively.
Cornish Pirates, who are still harbouring play-off hopes, sitting in 4th behind Doncaster, beat Coventry 30-19 while Ampthill lost to Jersey Reds 29-14 at Dillingham Park.