Bedford Athletic 10 Tunbridge Wells 12

A second home defeat this season for Bedford Athletic as they went down 12-10 to Tunbridge Wells. Having struggled to contain their opponents in the first half the side rallied in the second but still lacked the accuracy and composure to recover sufficiently to claim the win.

Tunbridge Wells settled the quicker of the two sides and a clearance kick from the home team in the third minute was fielded by visiting winger Michael Doherty in his own half who then exploited a weak and unco-ordinated defensive chase to run the ball straight back through four or five flailing tackles to score from 55 metres. Fly half George Montgomery added the conversion for an early lead. Bedford Athletic attempted to respond but soon came up against a brick wall defence and it took a scrum penalty on 13 minutes for Leo Mortimer to kick the team’s first points of the game. Tunbridge Wells were winning the kicking battle and as a result were pushing the home side back and forcing them to defend for long periods. There was some good defence from the home side, Josh Walker winning a crucial turnover under his own posts and further defensive work earning a ruck turnover five metres from their own line but the home side were not clearing their lines well and inviting too much pressure to survive. The breakthrough came in the 33rd minute as slick handling allowed the visitors to go through the phases and once the defence was sufficiently narrowed the ball was moved quickly down the back line to exploit the outside space, left winger Mylo Vanner-Mackew crossing for the try. This went unconverted but when the clearance kick from the kick off was dropped by the home defenceTunbridge Wells were soon in the territorial ascendancy again although the increasing dominance of the home side’s set piece was providing some respite. This prevented any further chances for the visitors and the half ended with visiting second row Matthew Spicer sin binned for a further ruck offence and a penalty kick at goal for Mortimer. This sailed narrowly wide and the home side were fortunate that the visiting lead was only 12-3 having failed to create any attacking chances of note in the first forty minutes.

The second half began with another Bedford Athletic error but on this occasion they won the ball back at the subsequent lineout and started to work their way back into the game. Spearheaded by some strong carries by Jake Foster and a dominant scrum the home side started to get on the front foot and when Steve Smith made a break carried on by Walker they finally had a chance to pressurise the visitors line. The first series of rucks ended with a hurried pass thrown at Lewis Sharp’s head but the side had a penalty advantage, chose a scrum and again poured forward only this time for Tom Allwright to be held up over the visitor’s line. The match continued in this vein Lewis Ager breaking from a line out drive only for the final pass to be knocked on. Although they were creating openings, Bedford Athletic were struggling to exploit them. They had another ten minute man advantage when visiting no.8 Jonathan Hinton was sin binned for a high tackle but errors in possession, individual mistakes and a well drilled sliding defence snuffing out the chances when the ball was run wide frustrated them. It took until the 73rd minute for the visitor’s line to be crossed when Bedford Athletic strung enough accurate phase play together and exploited the resultant space for replacement winger Kieran Farrer to cross for the try. Mortimer converted and this had the potential to set up a grandstand finish. Bedford Athletic did secure a couple of penalties but they were too far out for a kick at goal and they never really fashioned another scoring chance to threaten the visitor’s try line.

Having reached the halfway point in the season Bedford Athletic are sixth and in the top half of the table albeit just two points ahead of CS Stags who have had five points deducted for a player registration infringement. With six games to play at home the side will be keen to apply the lessons learned from a tight but ultimately frustrating contest to consolidate this position in the second half of the season but will start away from home this Saturday at Harpenden.