BEDFORD Blues recorded a hard-fought win at Brickfields over struggling Plymouth Albion to sneak home by a point away from home for the second time this season.
The victory, which was similar to the narrow win at Doncaster earlier in the season, ensures Bedford remain in second position in the RFU Championship, keeping pressure on the leaders, Newcastle Falcons.
Tries from hooker Neil Cochrane, wingers James Stephenson and Josh Bassett, and replacement Darryl Veenendaal proved to be enough for Bedford, despite Albion having a chance to snatch the victory with the final play of the match. But Albion fly-half Paul Roberts missed the tricky conversion, much to the relief of the Blues.
Mike Rayer's side started proceedings in a positive manner, winning a penalty in the hosts' half in the early exchanges. Despite it being very kickable, the visitors kicked towards the corner for a attacking line-out in a positive signal of their intent. And after Cochrane picked out lock Mike Howard, the resulting catch and drive led to the first score through the Bedford hooker.
James Pritchard, captaining the Blues, added the conversion to put them in command at 7-0.
With all the play and major decisions going the way of the visitors, Bedford continued their barrage of attacks in a bid to add to their early score.
Inside centre Mark Atkinson proved to be a useful line breaker, and when he spotted a gap, leading to Stephenson almost going over in the corner, it seemed a matter of time before there would be another try.
Scrum-half Luke Baldwin was held-up after a quick tap-penalty as the urgency and quick tempo from the Blues intensfied. However they had to wait until 27 minutes to score their second try.
The combination of Cochrane and Howard proved to be prolific once again, after the set-play led to another ball held up on the try line again. However the following attacking scrum saw Stephenson drift off his wing to reach out and score a try.
Pritchard added the extras as the Bedfordshire outfit went into a commanding 14-point lead.
However the away defence proved to be just as solid as Bedford frustrated the Devon side, disrupting their attacking set-plays and halting the wave of attacks that started to emerge.
However, on the half-hour mark, a mistake from the visitors inside their own 22 led to Albion finding a way back into the game with a score of their own; Rhodri McAtee going over for the home side.
It prompted the start of a test of the Bedford defence towards the end of the first half. A further three points were added from the boot of Roberts on the stroke of half time yet the visitors went into the break four points ahead.
The second period saw the momentum remain with Plymouth. Just a few minutes had elapsed when flanker Sam Hocking crossed the line, making it 15-14. However the response from the Blues was instant. Once again Atkinson broke the defensive line feeding Jake Sharp, who assisted Bassett on his shoulder and he sped over.
An open first 10 minutes of the second half then saw the game's third try in eight minutes. Albion's attacking scrum down the left resulted in the Plymouth skipper, Ruairi Cushion, combining with Bevon Armitage, which saw the scrum-half dive over putting Plymouth back in front with the score at 22-21.
Opportunities in the match became more scarce as the tired bodies and substitutions disrupted the flow of the game.
Bedford's defence were again under pressure as Plymouth looked to extend their lead, opting to take territory as opposed to points when penalties came their way.
And they were made to pay for their bold decisions with three minutes to play when replacement Veenendaal raced over to give his side the lead once again. Atkinson was again at the heart of the attack, breaking free of the defensive tackles before passing it to the fresh legs of the new scrum-half, who touched down with just three minutes to play.
With the score at 22-28, and Albion needing a converted try to snatch the victory, the Blues were under another wave of pressure as a penalty and scrum were given in favour of the home side as the clock ticked into the 40th minute.
After numerous phases, Plymouth number eight Aaron Carpenter went over down the left wing. However, the resulting conversion attempt drifted wide, giving Bedford a victory that ends a run of two straight away defeats.
Albion: McAtee, Warner, Howley-Berridge, Armitage, Bowen, Roberts, Cushion (c); Andrew, Vickers, Fairbrother, Beukeboom, Tovey, Stephen, Hocking, Carpenter
Replacements: Rowley, Bailey, Rogers, Morton, Cowan-Dickie, Sprangle, Matavesi
Blues: Pritchard (C), Stephenson, Burke, Atkinson, Bassett. Sharp, Baldwin; Reeves, Cochrane, Boulton, Howard, Tupai, Gillanders, Fox, Barrell
Replacements: Locke, Seal, Gulliver, Armes, Veenendaal, Dorrian, Dodge
Referee: Steve Lee Assistants: Nick WIlliams, James Minards