This was a performance that defied the difficult wintry conditions with Athletic combining strong defence with pace and precision in attack to earn their eleventh try bonus point win of the season.
As it was a Saturday afternoon it was raining and the gale that has followed the side around the Midlands in recent weeks comfortably settled down at the western end of the pitch to assist Bedford Athletics’ kick off at the start of the match. The kick was immediately returned by Paviors and sensing the chance to run the ball the visitors quickly moved play to the wing where the pace of Stephen Woodhead eluded the home defence for the opening try on 37 seconds which James Mortimer converted. There followed a sustained period of pressure from the home side and eventually following multiple phases of play they found an unguarded ruck down the left wing for centre Tom Winning to pick up and score. The conversion was missed and the visitor’s reply was immediate as from a scrum close to the home side’s line Steven Smith broke through the defence to score the second try of the day, Mortimer again converting. Once again a sustained period of pressure followed from Paviors. They were helped by a couple of penalties that gained them field position but their close driving game was constantly repelled close to Athletics’ line. Eventually a couple of knock ons allowed Bedford Athletic to raise the siege and when they returned to the attack good running from the backs off the back of a set scrum saw Charlie Darlow put Woodhead in for his second try of the day on 27 minutes. Mortimer’s conversion made it 21-5 and the visitors should have scored again before half time. Mortimer drilled a kick into the corner, the forwards disrupted the Paviors line out and Rob Watkins won a penalty for holding on. A quick tap penalty from Tom Orton nearly saw Tommy Mills score but he was unable to hold the greasy ball with the line at his mercy.
Right at the start of the second half another piece of great interplay from the backs saw Steve Smith split the defence for the bonus point try although on this occasion the conversion was missed. Paviors having dominated possession for most of the match stuck doggedly to their pick and drive game and it wasn’t until a strong driving run from Adam Corcoran that they really put the visitors under pressure. Several 5 metre scrums were then repelled and finally the ball was once again turned over at a ruck with scrum half Tom Orton delivering an excellent clearing box kick to relieve the pressure. With Paviors best chance of the game gone Athletic tried their best to keep their fluent attacking game going in the slippery conditions. In the final quarter of an hour they eventually made some inroads. An excellent attacking line from Tommy Mills took him through the home defence and over the line for the fifth try. In the next attack the ball was spread wide and although the cover got across to Woodhead, Rob Watkins was on hand with the perfect support line to take the scoring pass for the final try of the day with both of the last two tries converted by Mortimer. A break from Orton could have seen a try from the final play of the game but the ball went to ground short of the line.
With the half way point of the season reached, Bedford Athletic have won 12 and lost one of the first 13 games to lead the league by seven points. The second half of the season will begin away from home this Saturday at Bugbrooke.