Brentwood 34 Bedford Athletic 54
By Jeremy Tyrrell
A strong finish saw Bedford Athletic to victory at Brentwood by 54 points to 34.
A hat trick from Jake Foster and two tries from Stephen Woodhead saw the visitors home by 8 tries to 6 against their already relegated hosts who were nevertheless trying to finish their home fixtures on a high.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to Brentwood and from a quick tap penalty they chipped ahead with Bradley Burr winning the chase to touchdown in the second minute. Bedford Athletic were straight back into the game however, Tom Rees caught the restart and made yards, Steve Smith put the defence on the back foot and Jake Foster crossed for the first of his hat trick of tries in the fourth minute. Shortly afterwards, Bedford Athletic destroyed a home scrummage and opting for their own scrum five metres out, they switched play into midfield from where Harry Sawford-Smith crashed over for a second try. Ben Thompson then made space down the left wing for Josh Cassell and he powered infield to cross for a third try, all of which were converted by David Simpson for a 21-5 lead on 13 minutes. The side were unfortunate to see a couple of further chances go abegging but soon misfortune was replaced with profligacy as Bedford Athletic failed to play in the right areas and began to turn the ball over with increasing frequency in their own half. An interception allowed Brentwood to run a series of phases at the visiting defence and Dan Suttle crossed for the second home score. An unnecessary penalty in midfield allowed Brentwood to kick to touch and from the driving lineout replacement hooker Jack Richards scored, and then having lost the ball once again in a haste to create a chance from their own half, Bedford Athletic were unprepared to defend another tap penalty which saw prop Tijde Visser crash over for the try. Two Bradley Burr conversions made the score 24-21 to the home side. Ryan Taylor aided the fight back by catching the kick off and setting up the visitors for a controlled period of play that ended with a try to Foster and a conversion for Simpson and a 28-24 half time lead.
Playing down the hill in the second half Brentwood threw everything they had at their visitors. Two early penalties gave them field position and although Rob Watkins did well to stall momentum with a lineout steal, it only delayed the inevitable with Suttle again crashing over for the try and a Brentwood lead in the 44th minute. Bedford Athletic made good use of possession from the restart with Foster again on the end of move started in their own half with which Simpson’s conversion saw the visitors regain the lead at 35-29. Brentwood continued to attack at pace down the hill and a series of missed tackles allowed no.8 James Vogel to barge over for the home side’s sixth try of the day on 53 minutes but with the conversion again missed the lead stayed with the visitors at 35-34. Slowly Bedford Athletic started to impose some structure on their game, particularly in defence, and the Brentwood attacks began to be repelled. The visitors had sufficient threats in their locker to remain a danger on the counter attack and they exploited these to the full when first Stephen Woodhead and then Robbie Locke broke clear of the defence to score tries in the 64th and the 69th minute, which with Simpson’s conversion of the first advanced the score to 47-34. Brentwood believed they could still come back into the game, but now they met a solid visiting defence and wave after wave of attacks made no ground in the final ten minutes. Instead it was Foster again who profited from turnover ball and started the move that went the length of the field and saw Woodhead touch down for his 150th try for the first XV, David Simpson’s conversion pushing the eventual score to 54-34.
Bedford Athletic now need just a point to secure a top half of the table finish and play their last game of the season at home to Sutton & Epsom on Saturday, with the visitors needing a win to claim the league title.