Last minute heartbreak for Blues in Championship opener

Tommy Mathews kicked two penalties for Bedford but it wasn't enough... (Image: Bedford Blues)

A whole 51 weeks after Bedford Blues’ last competitive fixture, Mike Rayer’s side opened up their Championship campaign on Saturday afternoon at old rivals, Coventry.

The two pre-season games against Ampthill were flush with tries but the beginning of the league action saw a tight and cagey affair at the Butts Park Arena as the Blues looked for a bright start.

It was however 23 minutes before either side got on the scoreboard, Blues’ Tommy Mathews slotting home a penalty, giving the visitors a slender 0-3 lead at the half-time whistle.

Connor Tupai’s late yellow card meant Bedford started the second half a man down but another penalty for Mathews seemed to give the Blues the initiative with scoring opportunities at a premium.

Tupai returned from his mandatory 10 minute sin-binning, but was swiftly replaced by second row, Lewis Bean as the penalty count rose for Coventry.

The hosts were to make their second chance count as they scored the first and only try of the game, dominating a driving maul that was eventually touched down by Nic Dolly.

Both sides had their chances in the second half, but the single point deficit remained for the visitors until two minutes from the end, when replacement Will Maisey looked to have won it for the Blues with a late penalty.

However, the late drama had another chapter in store with Coventry gaining a procession of late penalties; the third of which meant a third yellow card for the Blues, with Will Carrick-Smith sent to the bin.

The fourth penalty was the dagger to the heart of Bedford, as Coventry’s Tony Fenner kept his nerve to slot the final kick of the game through the posts to snatch a 10-9 victory for the hosts.

It was a fair effort from Mike Rayer’s men, who spent a lot of the second half a man down, but they will be disappointed to start the season with a narrow loss.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Cornish Pirates got first crack at the division’s big boys, Saracens and duly pulled off a shock 25-17 win to put the pressure immediately on the three time European champions.

Hartpury, who face the Blues under the Goldington Road lights next Friday night, secured a comfortable 38-15 win at newly promoted, Richmond to take an early lead at the top of the Championship.