Bedford Blues’ final home league game of the season came under the Friday night lights as they looked to cement fifth place in the Championship against old rivals Coventry.
Joe Atkinson took the armband, with Rich Lane due to make his Premiership debut this weekend at Bristol, while Matt Worley secured his 50th cap in the unfamiliar position of full-back.
The opening moments were characterised by sloppy handling errors from the Blues; first Worley and then Pat Tapley gifting Coventry territory that the visitors took full advantage of.
A penalty try ensued to give Coventry an early 7-0 lead, and with Luke Frost in the sin bin as a result, it was the worst possible start for the hosts on a balmy evening at Goldington Road.
The Blues almost hit back immediately; a smart move working its way out to Louis Grimoldby but a dogged defence from a pumped up Coventry pack kept them at bay.
Grimoldby did get Bedford on the board on the quarter of an hour mark, but it was only stubborn defence that was stopping Coventry increasing their lead, as they were held up twice on the try line.
Visitors lay siege only to be hit on the counter
To put it mildly, Coventry were battering the Blues, until a miraculous escape led to a cross-field kick to Dean Adamson who dipped one way then the other to sprint in under the posts to give Bedford an unlikely 10-7 half time lead.
Bedford’s defence was once again key in a belligerent first half for the hosts, not helped by some handling errors, but the chances they did create were finished with aplomb as Coventry must have felt disappointed to go into the break behind.
The second half started in bizarre fashion as an injury to replacement Coventry prop, Jake Bridges led to uncontested scrums, but as soon as play restarted after a sizeable pause, the visitors were back on the hunt for the Bedford try line.
It didn’t take them long. Coventry seized their latest line out and sheer numbers hauled them over the try line with hooker, Jordan Poole touching down to restore the visitors’ lead.
Bedford rung the changes, but it did little to change their fortunes as Coventry kept on piling forward in search of a third try as the stop-start nature of the game began to infuriate the Blues crowd who were willing their team on.
The rare moments the Blues did escape their own half however were met with exuberance and fervour by Mike Rayer’s side and the few moments they were able to create a chance, they were able to capitalise.
A good move from one side of the pitch to the other was finished off by Matt Worley on the hour mark as Bedford regained a slender lead much to the delight of an attendance of 2,818 at Goldington Road.
However, Coventry hit back immediately with a penalty from Toby Fenner to retake a 17-15 lead and to set up yet another tight finish to a Goldington Road affair.
As the tension built, Bedford blew a wonderful opportunity to score at the death; Worley breaking through the line and offloading to Onojaife who threw a wayward pass to Adamson who could not retrieve it with the try line in his sights.
An out-of-touch Will Maisey also missed a penalty at a key moment in another chance for the Blues as it looked as if it was going to be a story of so near, yet so far.
Bedford were not to get another opportunity; any forays forward were snuffed out by a sturdy defence or the referee’s whistle as Coventry secured a deserved 17-15 win.
It was a frustrating evening for Bedford; splashes of their usual attacking flair were left without the finishing touches, resulting in a loss that seemed to hurt the fans as much as the players.
For all of Bedford’s endeavour though, Coventry were deserved 17-15 victors as they spent large periods of the game in Bedford territory that the hosts once again defended with eagerness but to no avail.
It was a disappointing end to the Blues’ home campaign, as they had chances to win it, but they will now hope that Hartpury and Ampthill slip up so they can hold on to fifth position.