In a game heavily affected by the wet conditions Athletic varied from the sublime to the ridiculous but retained enough composure to outscore their visitors by seven tries to four, although for long periods they by no means had things their own way.
Within 30 seconds of the start of the game Bedford Athletic were a try down when the kick off was dropped, Matlock recycled the ball, fly half James Fairclough put a grubber kick in behind the home defence which in turn was not dealt with and Fairclough himself kicked ahead again for the opening try. To their credit the home team immediately exerted their authority and within ten minutes they were in front courtesy of two driving mauls which were touched down by Ben Middleton and Andy Ince respectively with the second one converted by James Mortimer for a 12-5 lead. Matlock were not going to lie down, and taking advantage of an offside penalty in midfield their own lineout catch and drive was halted by the home defence but the resultant scrum was pushed over the line with the defending pack struggling to retain their footing in the muddy conditions, Tim Crattenden the try scorer narrowing the gap to 12-10. The home response was positive and finally getting their backs into play Charlie Darlow was the first to profit going through a gap for the third try on 26 minutes before Steve Smith created space out of nothing for Ben Johnson to score the bonus point try in the left hand corner on the half hour mark. In the final ten minutes of the half Athletic really should have scored again several times with Darlow pulled back for an offside when he had broken clear, penalties being needlessly conceded at attacking breakdowns and at the end of the half Stephen Woodhead and Tom Albone failed to convert a two on one overlap which should have ended with the ball over the tryline rather than rolling into touch. 22-10 the lead at half time.
Playing against the low sun and the wind in the second half the hosts still had a lot of work to do, but started well by stripping the ball in the tackle and quickly shifting play down the left wing where a strong run by Johnson eventually saw the ball thrown inside and miraculously picked off his toes by Tommy Mills to cross for the first try of the second half. Mortimer converted but minutes later Mills was not so fortunate as Woodhead broke clear down the right wing and he failed to hold the scoring pass with the line at his mercy. From this let off which would have seen them at least 34-10 behind Matlock slowly worked their way back up field and aided by a penalty which gave them field position on the home side’s 22 metre line were soon breaking tackles to score their third try of the day through Ben Neville converted by Fairclough. Minutes later Athletics’ defence was again all at sea as flanker Tim Taylor was allowed to run fully 50 metres before being tackled just short of the line. Nevertheless Fairclough was on hand to take the scoring pass to narrow the gap to 29-22. With an hour gone the game was far from settled but the home side’s position was improved when substitute Nick Thomas made an immediate impact, his barnstorming run resulting in a try that Mortimer converted for a 36-22 lead. Now the home defence was making its tackles and the visitor’s resurgence was halted and eventually snuffed out when Johnson, Mills and Woodhead broke down the left wing with six minutes to go, Woodhead on hand to take the scoring pass with Mortimer’s conversion achieving the final score of 43-22.
It was a successful day all round at Putnoe Wood as the second team, the Warriors, secured the Bert Osbourn Memorial Shield defeating Ampthill Extras by 17 points to 12 (Coach Stuart Polson pictured). Derby’s defeat of Kettering sees Bedford Athletic now in second place on points difference and the league campaign continues with a trip to Newark on Saturday, kick off times having now moved to 2.15pm for the winter months.