MK Wolves had originally been drawn at home for this Cup Semi-Final, and it was a match against a Bedford side who had been struggling in the league. On paper, it looked like a golden opportunity to make our first ever Cup Final.
However, with the MK 7s tournament taking place at Emerson Valley on the date of the game (and with Bedford Tigers exercising their right to refuse to play on an alternate date), it meant our home ground was unavailable. And, given the lack of any available alternate Rugby League venue in Milton Keynes, the decision was made to give up home advantage and play the game at Bedford's Putnoe Woods.
The MK 7s also meant several of Wolves' regular first teamers were busy at Emerson Valley. But, undeterred, 17 proud members of the MK Wolfpack made the short journey to Bedford for the semi-final derby clash.
And, result aside, it was a great game played in great spirit - Everything a real cup tie should be.
Bedford kicked off, and after some initial to-ing and fro-ing, took advantage to score in the corner for a 4-0 lead. It didn't take MK long to answer, though, as Jordan Cummins (one of MK's U16s last season) didn't shrink from taking the ball into contact, drawing in defenders, allowing Kai Muroi to scoot over for his first try of the game to level the scores.
Bedford then scored twice, pushing the score to 14-4 before Ed Kilby went on one of his trademark ball-carrying runs, gaining valuable yards and dragging defenders with him, from which attacking platform Kai Muroi ran in under the sticks for his second try of the game. Captain Ollie Fountain added the conversion to make it 14-10.
Bedford again scored twice (converting one) to extend their lead to 24-10, when Ollie Fountain found a gap in the Tigers defence to score under the sticks and make it 24-16 at half-time.
A rallying half-time talk from Captain Fountain and player-coach Abe Kerr focussed on the need to cut the errors, but could find no fault with the MK spirit.
MK started the 2nd half with renewed energy, thumping tackles and sterling defence - twice the MK defence forced Bedford to cough up the ball over the line preventing certain tries - but could only hold out against the Tigers' assault for so long. Bedford crossed for an unconverted try to make it 28-16.
Stung by conceding, MK turned their efforts to attack, and a tremendous phase of play saw Jason Yip score his first try in MK colours. The conversion from Fountain narrowed the gap to a single score - 28-22
But that was as close as MK would come as, short of substitutes, and with 70 minutes played, the Wolves began to tire. Bedford started to pull away with a brace of tries to make it 40-22, but MK were not done yet. Kai Muroi scored again to claim a hat-trick of tries, and from the restart, Ollie Fountain, really stepping up to the Captain's role, took the ball on an incredible run through the Tigers' defence that ended with him scoring a try under the sticks. But it came at a cost, as in the act of scoring he injured himself and (missing the conversion with an injured leg) had to leave the field with the scores 40-32.
Bedford scored another two tries as the game came to a close at 52-32, and MK were left to wonder what might have been.
Head coach Abe Kerr said, "Had we had a few more available players, maybe we could be celebrating getting to our first ever cup final.
"But I don't want to make excuses: that was a great cup tie, and a great effort from MK to run Bedford so close. I'm very proud of all the players that turned up to play for us today."
Next up, and back to a full complement of players, MK will once again travel to Bedford this time for a league clash. It's a big game, as 5th plays 4th, with both sides level on points and eager to edge closer to a play-off place.