Agony for Plymouth Albion as they miss last-gasp conversion against Bedford Blues
Plymouth Albion…27 Bedford Blues…28
PLYMOUTH Albion could not have come closer to ending their long losing run and causing a major upset at Brickfields on Saturday against second-placed Bedford Blues.
Albion, having recovered from 14-0 down, scored a try – their fourth of the match - in the sixth minute of injury-time through Aaron Carpenter to pull to within one point of Bedford with the conversion to come.
However, Carpenter's try, was scored in the left corner and it so it was a tough kick for fly-half Paul Roberts.
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Yet it looked like his effort was going to go between the posts, but it just swerved at the last minute and narrowly missed by foot to condemn Albion to yet another defeat – their 10th in 11th Championship matches.
Albion have not won in the league since November 9, but this was the fourth game running they had lost by three points or less.
And, like against Rotherham last weekend, Nat Saumi's side did pick up two valuable bonus points to keep them away from danger.
They now have a week off before taking on fellow play-off hopefuls Nottingham at Meadow Lane on March 3.
Albion made two changes to the team they had initially named on Friday. Canadian lock Brett Beukeboom was forced out with an infection and he was replaced by Rupeni Nasiga, while Lloyd Fairbrother was passed fit and came in for David Morton, who dropped to the bench.
Bedford made a great start and took the lead after less than three minutes. From a penalty the Blues went for the corner and hooker Neil Cochrane scored from a catch-and-drive move from the line-out. Former Albion player James Pritchard converted to make it 7-0.
Bedford should have doubled their lead six minutes later. Mark Atkinson made a good break and put James Stephenson away. The winger broken down the right wing and looked like he might try and go all the way, but he attempted to pass five metres from the try line and Albion managed to intercept and force the ball into touch.
Bedford did get the five-metre lineout. Albion did not let them drive this time, but the Blues went inside and scrum-half Luke Baldwin thought he scored but referee Steve Lee ruled he had been held up.
Bedford did get a penalty from the five-metre scrum. Don Barrell tried to take it quickly and he did get over the line but the referee would not let him have the try. Bedford opted for another five-metre scrum but they could not convert it into any points.
Bedford had spent a good five minutes on Albion's line but did not have anything to show for it, which gave the home side encouragement.
Nat Saumi's side had their first pressure in Bedford's 22 when they stole a Blues' line-out following a kick by Ruairi Cushion but they were unable to make it tell.
Bedford, who in the first half always looked like they had an extra gear, thought they had scored again in the 29th minute from another catch-and-drive move from a five-metre line-out, but the referee could not see if it had been grounded and so just awarded a five-metre scrum.
But the Blues did finally get their second try. From the scrum they went inside and Stephenson managed to sneak over near the posts and Pritchard converted to make it 14-0 with just nine minutes of the half left.
However, Bedford committed suicide from the restart and lost the ball in their own 22. Albion pressed and McAtee scored from close range and Roberts converted to make it 14-7.
And with the last kick of the half, Roberts kicked a penalty to reduce the gap to just four points at the break with a penalty.
Albion brought on Paul Bailey at half-time for McAtee, who had picked up shoulder injury, and Bailey had a massive game.
Four minutes into the second period, Albion, looking confident, went in front for the first time when Harrison Tovey went over in the right corner. It all came from a poor kick from Beford fly-half Jake Sharp. Albion collected it and ran down the left wing with Nasiga and Bailey before the ball eventually found its way to the right and Tovey managed to sneak over in the corner, although Bedford tried to claim he had gone into touch. Roberts just missed the conversion.
However, Bedford hit back straight away. Albion lost a line-out and Atkinson broke right through the heart of Albion before putting Josh Bassett in to score under the posts. Pritchard converted to make it 21-15.
It was an end-to-end game now and Bedford messed up the restart, something they did three times in the second-half, and Albion got a scrum inside their 22. The home and pressed and eventually Armitage made a great break before putting Ruairi Cushion in to score under the posts. It was his second try in two games and it was converted by Roberts to put Albion 22-21 up.
Albion wasted a penalty on 59 minutes by going for the corner but losing the line-out. However Plymouth did charge down Bedford's attempted clearance but the ball went dead before any home player could dive on it.
Albion then messed up on their owm line and gave away a five-metre scrum but Bedford could not take advantage.
Saumi's team wasted two more penalties by going for the corner only to lose the line-outs.
Then Albion suffered heartbreak in the 79th minute when Atkinson cut through Albion and he put replacement Darryl Veenedaal in to score. Pritchard crucially converted to make it 28-22.
It looked like Bedford had the game won, but Albion had other ideas and in the sixth minute of added on time, after the visitors had given away a penalty in their own 22, the home side scored a fourth try through Carpenter. However, Carpenter's effort was scored right in the left corner.
Roberts knew his kick would be the last action of the game. It looked like it was going to sail through the posts but just missed by a foot.
Albion: Rhodri McAtee, Lewis Waner, Toby Howley-Berridge, Tom Bowen, Paul Roberts, Ruairi Cushion (capt), Jack Andrew, Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Rupeni Nasiga, Harrison Tovey, Sean-Michael Stephen, Sam Hocking, Aaron Carpenter. Reps: Paul Rowley, Paul Bailey, Ben Rogers, David Morton, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Wayne Sprangle, Sam Matavesi.
Bedford: James Pritchard, James Stephenson, Brendon Burke, Mark Atkinson, Josh Bassett, Jake Sharp, Ricky Reeves, Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton, Paul Tupai, Mike Howard, Greg Gillanders, Darren Fox, Don Barrell. Reps: Chris Locke, Dan Seal, Ben Gulliver, Tom Armes, Darryl Veenedaal, Myles Dorrian, Ollie Dodge.
Referee: Steve Lee (RFU)