ANOTHER game against Championship strugglers and yet another scrappy victory for Yorkshire Carnegie.
Bryan Redpath’s side remain in second place, but they are so far off the promotion pace as this poor performance illustrated once more last night.
Having been pushed hard by bottom-placed Richmond a week earlier, they were left grimly hanging on at the end again by Bedford Blues, who sit 10th and have won just three times all season.
The visitors, bizarrely for the second time against Carnegie this campaign, arrived late after ‘technical’ issues with their team bus, but they certainly made up for lost time to give the patchy home side an almighty scare.
Indeed, Carnegie were not safe until Mike Mayhew burrowed his way over for the home side’s bonus point try deep into stoppage-time.
Bedford’s team bus broke down when they played in the British & Irish Cup at Selby RUFC in November so, just as then, the game started 15 minutes later last night.
The hydraulics of their coach failed, which, apparently, saw players getting taxis from for the short trip from their nearby Village Hotel.
Redpath, meanwhile, had urged his side to each cut out at least one mistake per game if they are serious about competing with leaders London Irish but, clearly, that was not taken on board here as they remained error-ridden at times.
It was no surprise that they only led 14-8 at the break; their sloppiness invited Bedford back into a game that the home side should have taken a hold of much sooner.
Joe Ford, for the second game running at Headingley, skewed a simple penalty attempt, passes went to ground that should have been held, and on it went for the hosts.
Granted, Carnegie scored a fine try inside just three minutes, centre Andy Forsyth gliding through on a lovely diagonal off Ford’s soft pass to pierce Bedford before supplying stand-in captain Alex Davies.
Ford converted but after his simple miss, Richard Beck – like Pete Lucock, making his 100th appearance for the club – wasted another chance with a poor spillage.
They realised it was best to keep it simple, Michael Cusack falling over the goalline for their second try after the first of numerous effective driving line-outs in the 25th minute.
Ford improved again but – at 14-3 – his side dozed.
Bedford winger George Perkins darted clear up the middle forcing Ford into quick action to just drag him down in time.
However, it only delayed the inevitable; soon after, a perfect grubber from fly-half Sharp bounced up for opposite winger Dean Adamson to dive in at the corner and the visitors were unlucky not to score again before the break.
Full-back Matt Gallagher – son of ex-Leeds RL and All Blacks full-back John – was next to find a gap with a lovely break to set up position only for Tom Farrell to waste an obvious overlap and let Carnegie off the hook.
When Ollie Stedman drove over from another line-out early in the second period for Ford to make it 21-8, they should again have took a grip.
However, instead, Ford turned down a simple penalty shot only for his side to lose the line-out before the fly-half, who had a particularly difficult night, threw an interception pass to encourage Bedford further.
Sharp collected and then hacked on and, although Jonah Holmes got back behind his own line to deny the chasing visitors, from the resulting 5m scrum, Adamson bumped off a weak tackle to go over for his second in the 62nd minute.
Sharp improved to get in touching distance at 21-8 and Carnegie wobbled badly with both Ford and Stevie McColl – two of their most experienced players – spilling kicks inside their own 22 under no pressure.
They survived, though. Just.
Yorkshire Carnegie: McColl; Holmes, Forsyth, Lucock, Stegmann; Ford, Davies (Green 48); Boyce (Beech 60), Graham (Mayhew 62), Cusack (O’Donnell 54), Whetton, Sanderson (Burrows 59), Beck, C Walker (Saull 77) , Stedman.
Bedford Blues: Gallagher; Perkins, Lebourgeois, Farrell, Adamson; Sharp, Whiteley (Burns 70); Parilli-Ocampo (Culverhouse 57), Fields (Georg 54) , Judge (B Walker 54), Carrick-Smith, Hodge (Tupai 60), Taylor, Buggea, Adams (Hill 80).
Referee: Andrew Jackson (RFU).
Exeter Chiefs rose to fourth place in the Aviva Premiership with an impressive 21-3 victory over Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Rob Baxter’s side were up at the break after a penalty try and further scores from winger James Short and scrum-half Will Chudley put them in control.