Ulster ‘A’ suffered a 27-18 defeat away to Bedford Blues, Alex Codling’s side being outscored by three tries to two in their second British & Irish Cup Pool 2 match.
Some incisive running rugby saw Piers O'Conor, Jordan Burns and Steffan Jones all cross the whitewash for Bedford, while Jake Sharp had a successful day from the kicking tee as the Blues turned pink for their annual Ladies Day fixture that was attended by 2,303 spectators.
That is not to say that the Blues had it all their own way at Goldington Road and if Ulster 'A' out-half Sam Windsor had his kicking radar as finely tuned as Sharp's, then the result could have been a different one.
Playing down the slope in the opening 40 minutes, Bedford put the visitors under pressure from the off as Alex Lundberg charged down an attempted clearance kick only to see the ball roll past the end-line.
The Blues continued to push and their pressure paid off in the 11th minute when they were awarded a penalty which Sharp slotted between the uprights.
Ulster 'A', impressive winners at home to Bristol last weekend, looked to respond quickly and Ireland international Luke Marshall almost found a way through as he looked to latch onto a kick ahead, but the Blues defence scrambled well and the threat was repelled.
The Blues continued to look for the opening try but some great interplay between O'Conor and Dean Adamson did not get the reward it possibly deserved as the ball just ran out of play before the full-back could benefit.
On 21 minutes, Bedford finally got their reward when a darting run from scrum half Burns started a brilliant move which resulted in O'Conor dotting down and Sharp adding the extras.
But Bedford's joy was short-lived as Ulster 'A' swiftly notched a try of their own. Alex Codling's men had numbers on the right and utilised them with strong-running winger Rory Scholes producing a high quality finish in the 24th minute. Windsor's conversion attempt from the touchline drifted wide.
Leading 10-5, Bedford continued to show their attacking intent by opting to send a number of kickable penalties to touch rather than extend their lead further. However, they were left to rue the decision when they conceded a penalty and let Ulster 'A' off the hook.
Those decisions proved even more costly when the province broke at pace in the 32nd minute, attacking with vigour down the left wing, and full-back Johnny McPhillips forced his way over in the left corner. This time Windsor added a superb conversion into a swirling breeze to inch his side ahead – 12-10.
Again though, Bedford managed to score at a crucial juncture. Right on the stroke of half-time, Lundberg's lightning break set the Blues in motion and Joel Conlon made further yards before James Pritchard put Burns in to score with Sharp converting for a 17-12 advantage.
A bright start to the second period saw Sharp extend the Blues' lead further as he slotted a second penalty of the afternoon. It could have been even better for the hosts though when Harry Wells broke through but the chance went a-begging at the last moment.
Ulster 'A' continued to knock at the door and Windsor kept his team within touching distance with two good penalties to make it 20-18. Unfortunately, he also missed another kickable attempt that would have put the visitors back in front after his pack had put in a ferocious effort at the scrum..
That missed chance proved costly as Bedford stretched their lead even further with a third try of the afternoon. Sharp spotted a gap behind the Ulster 'A' defence and put a perfect kick over the top which replacement Jones then hacked on before grounding the ball with Sharp again adding the extras.
With a minute left, the province's last chance vanished as Windsor sent a third kickable effort wide of the posts and some resolute defence saw the Blues home.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)