Ulster 'A' show grit but title bid takes real blow
Ulster 'A' 17-22 Bedford Blues
Ulster A's hopes of making the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals are effectively over after they fell to Pool Two leaders Bedford Blues at a chilly Deramore.
A third defeat in five games for Alex Codling's side has now all but eliminated them from making it through as a best runner-up despite their losing bonus point with now only an unlikely set of results - plus Ulster winning well at Bristol next weekend - offering them their only hope.
The visitors - now in pole position to top the group - scored four tries to take maximum points with their fourth touchdown coming in the 80th minute when centre Henry Staff got over out on the left after the clash had been tied at 17-17.
Ulster scored tries from Jacob Stockdale and Sam Windsor while Jonny McPhillips kicked two conversions and a penalty and trailed 12-10 at half-time.
The visitors - who beat Ulster earlier in the campaign - opened the scoring after 11 minutes when prop Phil Boulton was driven over after the Blues put a penalty in the corner and mauled.
However, out-half Jake Sharp missed the conversion. Five minutes later and the Blues had another scoring chance after a penalty against Ulster was marched closer to the sticks after backchat from the home side but Sharp's effort hit the post.
Ulster struck next through winger Stockdale which McPhillips converted to give the home side the lead.
On the half hour, though, Bedford winger Dean Adamson slalomed his way through defenders to dot down near the posts and Sharp nailed the extras to give the Blues a 21-7 lead.
A 39th-minute McPhillips penalty cut the Blues' lead to two at the break but five minutes after the restart, centre Tom Griffiths got over. Ulster came back to tie after a well taken try from Windsor with McPhillips converting and it looked set for the draw until Staff's last-gasp score.
ULSTER 'A': R McBurney, R Lyttle, M Best, S Windsor, J Stockdale, J McPhillips, D Shanahan; A Warwick, J Andrew, B Ross, J Donnan, P Browne, C Joyce, N Timoney, L Dow. Replacements: J Murphy, R Murphy, J Simpson, A Thompson, C Young, P Rowley, A Magrath.
BEDFORD: S Jones, S Blanchet, H Staff, T Griffiths, D Adamson, J Sharp, J Burns; T Williams, C Clare, P Boulton, H Wells, M Flanagan, J Blanchet, N Fenton-Wells (capt), J Conlon. Replacements: S James, C Parilli-Ocampo, P Tupai, B Alo, P White, M Dorrian, O Dodge
Referee: D Jones (WRU)