Bedford Athletic 27 Lichfield 31

A poor performance from Bedford Athletic saw a fifth defeat in a row in a 31-27 loss at home to Lichfield.

In a game critical to the team’s survival chances in National 3 Midlands the side failed to show the application, determination, or composure necessary to succeed at this level.

This failure was evident from the kick off as Bedford Athletic tried to run the ball, got tackled into touch and then allowed their visitors to cruise through their defence from the lineout for the first score to Jonny Evans on 83 seconds. Josh Massey converted. The home side were soon scrambling in defence again to stop several further breakaways before they began to work their way back into the game. Josh Cassell broke through and although he was hauled down short of the line, James Mortimer was on hand to finish the try and slot the conversion kick. Indiscipline was to cost the hosts from the kick off, and penalties conceded left Lichfield with a line out on the home 22. A short throw was completely missed by the defence and Joe Thompson almost wandered across the line untouched for Lichfield’s second score, Massey again converting on 16 minutes. As might be expected between two sides at the foot of the table, the game then meandered as multiple mistakes halted any flow. The good news for the home side was that much of the game was now taking place in the visitor’s half and eventually Mortimer had a penalty kick at goal which he missed on 34 minutes. Two minutes later a score did arrive when a deliberate knock on by the Lichfield defence allowed prop John Clarke to collect the ball and charge over the line to narrow the gap to 14-12. Bedford Athletic dropped the kick off and from the subsequent scrum they failed to lay a hand on any attacking player allowing full back Massey an easy try which he converted for a 21-12 lead. Just before the break Andy Ince broke away but he was tackled short of the line and the support wasn’t there in time to stop Lichfield winning the ball back.

Bedford Athletic had the first chance of the second half but when Josh Cassell sped clear, Stephen Woodhead was tap tackled just short of the line and Lichfield cleared the danger. In fact they did better than that as commanding territory and possession they progressed up field to kick a penalty and take a 24-12 lead on 51 minutes. As the half wore on the game seemed to be heading to a comfortable Lichfield win as Bedford Athletic neither had the accuracy nor the guile, the penetration nor the intellect to unlock the visiting defence, with possession often moving from side to side across the field before being squandered. Josh Cassell broke clear again on 66 minutes and although he fell over the full back in his attempt to chase his kick ahead, from a 5 metre scrum the ball was fed wide to Stephen Woodhead who scored in the corner. With the conversion missed, Bedford Athletic also failed to secure the restart and Lichfield quickly moved play wide to literally run around and then through the defence for their bonus point try touched down by Charlie Milner. Massey converted and the home side were once again a long way behind at 31-17. A frantic final five minutes began to change all that as first Jake Foster got over the line for the bonus point try, Mortimer hitting the post with his conversion to leave the side needing two further scores to win. A missed penalty kick to touch seemed to have cost the home side their final chance but James Wallace intercepted the ball in midfield and Stephen Woodhead chased the kick ahead to apparently touch down and score. The conversion was again missed leaving the final score 31-27 to Lichfield.

Two bonus points at the end of the game could hardly be described as well earned and they certainly were not deserved at the end of an error strewn and lack lustre Bedford Athletic performance. They were also a long way from being an adequate return at home to a side one place ahead of Bedford Athletic in the league table. Bedford Athletic now have a week’s break from league action, time for the players to contemplate the level of performance actually needed if they are serious about trying to remain in this league.