Pertemps Bees 18 Bedford Blues 29
This was Bees' eighth league defeat in a row and it was the third time this season that they'd gone down against Bedford. Deep is the gloom at Sharmans Cross Road. And yet . . .
And yet there is honour and there is merit in their rugby. They led in this match a couple of times and were never out of contention in a contest that was quite exciting for the time of the year.
"It's the way things are going," said a distraught Phil Maynard, Bees' director of rugby. "When the luck's against you, what can you do?"
Directors of rugby have to be careful about what they say about referees these days but it didn't appear that Maynard was too impressed with the work of Geraint Roberts. A number of his decisions were crucial and seemed rather too often to be to Bees' disadvantage.
Not many losing rugby teams have it in them to praise the referee, of course, and there were other important factors that influenced the result.
Bees' line-out wasn't very reliable and they were under serious pressure in the scrummages.
Bedford were noticeably superior in several areas but, if the judgment is of a side's response to adversity, then Bees' won a lot of good marks.
They played with fervour and frequent bouts of skill and if it is stretching things to say that they were unlucky not to win, they were certainly unlucky not to get a bonus point.
"We tried hard from start to finish," said Maynard. "And I think we were unlucky with some of the decisions that went against us."
One decision had a huge influence on the result and it was made in the 68th minute when Bedford led by a point. Mr Roberts (Llyr ap Geraint Roberts to give him his title in High Welsh), awarded a penalty when Bees were attacking on the Bedford 22. Bees, following the slow movement of his arm, thought he was going to signal it to them.
He wasn't. Mr Roberts's arm swung round the other way and in the split second of doubt, Bedford tapped and against a totally unprepared defence, their full-back, James Hinkins, ran something like 70 yards for a try that Ali Hepher converted.
This was a massive blow and, try as they might, Bees could not recover from it. In the 46th minute of the second
half (or the 14th minute of overall injury time), Hepher kicked the penalty goal that put a Bees bonus point out of range.
But when all is said and complained about, there was a more telling moment and this came after 64 minutes when the Bees were leading by two points. They lost a line-out on their own throw and, in the ensuing play, they were penalised for a high tackle, Hepher kicked the goal and Bees lost a lead they had fought so hard to achieve.
Losing line-outs on your own ball is one of the paramount sins of the modern game. The obligatory firstminute penalty, which invariably goes against the defending team, went to Bedford, it was well within Hepher's range and the fly-half kicked it.
But within seven minutes of the start, Bees were in front. Paul Knight once again showed his opportunist
tendencies by tapping a closerange penalty and squirming over for a try that Tim Walsh converted.
Then Walsh kicked a penalty goal from more than 40 yards and Bees were entitled to believe that they were onto something. But when they killed the ball at a ruck near their posts in the 21st minute, they were lucky that the punishment was merely a Hepher goal. It could have been a yellow card.
From 10-3 up, they quickly passed to 10-13 down;
Bedford were now in their best phase of the match.
Spencer Brown had come on as an early wing replacement and when Hepher showed him the outside, Brown gave a sharp reminder of the finishing powers he was once quite famous for. Hepher converted handsomely from touch but after 38 minutes Walsh brought the scores level with a penalty from touch.
It was a strange kick for, when struck, it was pulled and was destined to miss the near post. Late in flight, however, it developed a kink or, in cricket parlance, late outswing and over it went.
From a far simpler position, Walsh then missed the kick that would have given Bees a half-time lead.
Hepher did not miss to give Bedford the advantage eight minutes into the second half but when Bees forced themselves in front from Dave Knight's quickly tapped penalty, Walsh was not up to the conversion. And all the rest of the points, as described earlier, were Bedford's.
PERTEMPS BEES: D Knight (Hunt, 64); Takarangi, Martin (Woof, 63), Williams-Greenway, Baxter; Walsh, P Knight (Richardson, 76); le Chevalier, Miles, O'Keefe, Orgee, Hurrell (Davidson, 83), Fakatou, Hughes (Jenner, 63), Gerry. BEDFORD: Hinkins; Moir (Brown, 19), Staten, Saayman, Griffiths; Hepher, Malone (Vass, 54); Volland (Tonzaviaha, 54), Ross (Johnson, 69), Stewart, Philips, Comb, Strauss (Paramor, 48), Brady (Brooks, 67), Rainbow.
Referee: Mr G Roberts.