And if they win the return match they will make chairman Frank Warren a richer man. Having won a pounds 50,000 bet with rival promoter Mickey Duff, Warren placed the money on Bedford to win the two-leg play-off at odds of 5-4. "I'm really optimistic," said Warren, who also promised that funds would be available for the club to recruit during the summer. If the play- offs were decided on tackles made his money would look a lot more certain.
Junior Paramore was in magnificent form. His hits could be felt throughout the county, his victims often looked dazed as they staggered to their feet. But it is aggregate points that count in the first instance and Bristol have a distinct advantage going into Sunday's second leg.
If Bedford pull off the near-impossible and match Bristol's aggregate then the two sides' tally of tries will decide the issue. If they match then it is conversions that will matter. If they are still inseparable then the First Division side will be deemed to have won. A rather unjust system, but the clubs have apparently accepted it, for this year at least.
Bedford were guilty of too many basic errors, but they still managed to make life difficult for Bristol. And the gulf between the two sides was not so apparent, especially for the first half-hour. But then Bristol were given a bit of thrust by wing Ben Breeze, who scorched in for their second try and the gulf opened up.
But Bedford did not give up. They lived in the faces of their opponents throughout a second half which grew more and more tense. So much was at stake. Sunday's return promises to be even more explosive. Bedford will be without the South African back row Rudi Stareuli, who limped off midway through the second half with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Bedford: Try Probyn; Penalties Rayer 2. Bristol: Tries Jones, Breeze; Conversions Burke 2; Penalties Burke 2.
Bedford: M Rayer; P Hewitt, B Whetstone, S McCurrie, M Offiah (M Oliver, 72); P Turner (capt), D Edwards; C Boyd, P Simmonds, J Probyn, S Murray, S Platford (N Hadley, 48), R Winters, J Paramore, R Straeuli (M Pepper, 65).
Bristol: L Lewsey; B Breeze, F Waters, K Maggs, D Tiueti (P Hull, 69); P Burke, R Jones; K Fulman, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, C Eagle, M Corry (capt; D Corkery, 70), R Collins, E Rollitt.
Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland).