IT MAY have effectively been an end-of-season dead-rubber at Goldington Road, but these two former Championship heavyweights produced a thriller in the Easter sunshine.
The much-changed Pirates were led by player-coaches Alan Paver and Gavin Cattle for the trip to the East of England as director of rugby Ian Davies stayed home awaiting the birth of his second child.
And despite a third successive loss for the Pirates, Paver was happy with what he saw from his young team.
“It was an unusual game full of energy and full of high spirit and the young boys had a real run round out there,” he said. “We had a fantastic start to the game but in the end the team who played with the most consistency was Bedford and they deserved the victory. However, we showed great things in parts.”
The Pirates flooded their squad for the game with youngsters giving Angus Sinclair his first start at fly-half for two months in place of the injured Kieran Hallett.
Exeter Chiefs dual registered flanker Joel Conlon returned to the side after illness, Tom Hendrickson got the nod over Tom Riley at outside centre, Tom Duncan made only his second Championship start for the club, flanker Matt Bolwell returned to the bench after missing seven months through injury, and there was also a rare first-team opportunity for Guernsey-born wing Luke Jones.
Paver admitted that his team “ran out of puff” in the second half. He added: “They punished us when the sin-binning of Tom Kessell happened with three tries but all in all it was a great effort by the boys.
“If I have to be critical, which is hard on a day like this, the boys used too much fuel by playing from deep but that is actually what we told them to do. We told them to go out and play but the energy expenditure when you play like that is massive, and we didn’t quite pull away enough on the score board to worry Bedford.”
And Paver admitted that his first real experience of coaching on a Championship matchday without Ian Davies on the touchline was “really good”.
He added: “Obviously it is very different putting the coach’s hat on but because I am in this kind of environment all the time I didn’t find it too dramatic. I was hardly a fish out of water. Mind you the nerves on the sidelines are quite something.”