Bedford Blues booked their place in the Championship play-off semi-finals after picking up a losing bonus point in a narrow defeat against second-placed Doncaster Knights at Castle Park writes Beds on Sunday.

Jersey's failure to beat Ealing Trailfinders meant that they can't overtake the Blues irrespective of the results on the final day of the regular season next weekend.

The Blues will go into their final league game against Bristol having lost four of their last six league games, but they will take heart from this spirited showing against a Doncaster side beaten just twice at home in the league.

Bedford defended much better than a side which had conceded an average 35 points in their previous five league games.

"We had worked very hard on our defence in the last fortnight and credit to the boys we dug deep on the day," said full-back Steffan Jones.

The visitors, who finished the game on top, also impressed with the ball in hand at times.

"We got off to a great start, when we had the wind at our backs, and I think we could have had another couple in the first half," said Jones.

"Our discipline needed to be better and I think that is what cost us in the end."

It was always going to be a big ask for Blues to avenge their first home defeat of the season in December against in-form Knights.

But they made a flying start and led 14-3 at one stage in the first half.

The first of their two first half tries was scored in around 30 seconds. Fly-half Myles Dorrian, who also added the extras, supporting a break by skipper Michael Le Bourgeois to touch down for the fastest try of the season at Castle Park.

The home side had to wait until the 13th minute when blindside prop Phil Boulton - who was making his 200th appearance for the Blues - was sin-binned to open their account with a Declan Cusack penalty.

Centre Mat Clark pulled off a try-saving tackle after the Blues had broken from deep in their own half, but they were not to be denied and they cashed in on anoverlap on their left flank when Jones touched down out wide.

Dorrian made it 14-3 with the resulting touchline conversion.

Knights threw everything at the Blues' line but got no joy as the visitors continued to defend well until second-rower Matt Challinor powered his way over from close range to score too far out for Cusack to convert on 32 minutes.

The visitors were reduced to 14 men for the second time in the half when loosehead prop Tom Williams was sin-binned just before the break.

Knights wasted no time in cashing in on their extra man, leading try-scorer Latu Makaafi racing in from 15 metres out within two minutes of the restart.

Cusack added the extras to give his side the lead (15-14) for the first time in the game.

Bedford found themselves down to 13 men when second-rower Mike Howard was also sin-binned.

Doncaster extended their lead to 22-14 with a close-range converted try by Clark. Dorrian clawed three points back with a 54th minute penalty.

Knights, who had Jon Phelan sin-binned, found themselves under pressure around the hour mark and Camilo Parilli-Ocampo was held just short.

Bedford changed both half-backs on 65 minutes and within a minute scrum-half Jordan Burns sent centre Tom Griffiths racing through a gap 22 metres out and he wrong-footed full back Paul Jarvis to level the scores.

Jake Sharp added the extras to make it 22-24 but a brace of Cusack penalties ultimately sealed their fate.

Doncaster Knights: Jarvis (Bryant 80), Bulumakau, Clark, Hurrell, Lewis, Cusack, Heaney, List (Sproston 65), Hunter (Veikoso 78), Quigley (Brugnara 65),Challiner, Phelan (Young 72), Makaafi (Stedman 68) Hills, Shaw.

Replacements not used: White.

Bedford Blues: Jones, Perkins, Le Bourgeois, Griffiths, Adamson, Dorrian (Sharp 65), Taylor (Burns 65), Williams, Clare, Boulton, Howard, Flanagan, Blanchet, Buggea (Parilli-Ocampo 62), Tupai.

Replacements not used: Currie, Wells, Fenton-Wells.

Referee: Dean Richards

Next Home Match

Friday 23rd August
1st XV Pre Season
Goldington Road