DONCASTER Knights suffered what could prove to be a crucial Pool B defeat in their efforts to reach the knock-out stages of the Championship promotion play-offs at Castle Park.
A late converted try by Bedford, who finished the season as runners-up to Worcester. sentenced Knights to their second defeat in three play-off games and left them realistically needing to win all three remaining games be in with a chance of making the last-four.
Knights loooked to be on course for a deserved win when leading 16-10 with less than three minutes of normal time remaining.
But Bedford, who had been second best for most of the game, made the most of a penalty from a scrum infringement on the Knights 22 as second-rower Mike Howard forced himself over from close range on 78 minutes near enough for fly-half Myles Dorrian to convert.
Threre was still time for Knights to hit back and set-up a chance a kicking chance for fly-half Tristram Roberts, but they panicked with ball in hand and Bedford hung on.
Knights made a confident start, against a side which had done the double over them in the league, and moved the ball about well with half-backs Nathan Jones and Roberts well to the fore.
Bedford had the first chance to put points on the board butDorrian failed to hit the target with a 43 metre penalty.
Roberts came to Knights’ rescue on 16 minutes when pulling off a try-saving tackle on Bedford winger Handre Schmidt close to the line after the South African had gone past two defenders.
Dorrian kicked Bedford into a 3-0 lead but Knights, for whom flanker Latu Makaafi proved a handful for the visitor’s defence in the first half, ooked the better side.
Top try-scorer Matty Williams was unlucky not to win his side a penalty after being checked by Dorrian after kicking ahead after being put away by No 8 Ed Jackson.
Knights drew level on 35 minutes when Roberts rewarded a spell of pressure with a drop goal.
Dorrian hit the far post with a long-range angled penalty on the stroke of half-time.
After the restart Roberts landed an easy ten-metre penalty from under the posts to make it 6-3.
Schmidt almost got in again before Howard crashed over from close range on 56 minutes. Dorrian added the extras to make it 10-6 to Bedford.
Hooker Steve Boden got the touchdown, after the Doncaster pack had driven Bedford back over their line to edge his side into an 11-10 lead.
Knights increased their lead on 70 minutes with a superb try. It started on the left touchline as Williams gathered a loose ball and began the move which saw the ball pass through half-a-dozen pair of hands before full-back Steve McColl stormed over out wide from about 20 metres out.
Again Roberts failed to tag on the extras leaving Bedford a lifeline which they grabbed with both hands to strengthen their grip on second spot.
n Knights: McColl, Flockhart, Goss, Wright, Williams, Roberts, Jones, Frazier, Boden, Thiede (Quigley 56) Challinor, Kenworthy (Craig 50) Makaafi (Farivarz 68), Cochrane, Jackson. Unused rep: Doughty, Parsons, Hampson, Briers.