Bedford Athletic ground out victory against a strong Hertford side by 29 points to 26.
It was a win built on taking their chances as five penalties from the boot of Leo Mortimer plus his conversions of tries by Tom Orton and Charlie Darlow being enough to see the side home.
The early minutes of the game saw Bedford Athletic missing tackles and Hertford should have taken an early lead, frustrated only by a knock on just short of the line. Thereafter Hertford remained in the attack subjecting Bedford Athletic to a lengthy defensive shift. Remarkably they lifted this siege and scored the first points of the afternoon through a Leo Mortimer penalty on 13 minutes. The Hertford response was immediate and earning a penalty in their own half they took a quick tap and got in behind the Bedford Athletic defence. With the defence disorganised it was no.8 Matt MacDougall who capitalised, forcing his way over for the responding score, Ben Lloyd converting. Mortimer replied with a second penalty and when Kyle Lemon was sin binned for a cynical pull back without the ball on Steve Smith who had broken the line and looked likely to score, Mortimer was able to extend the lead to 9-8. A period of Bedford Athletic superiority ensued as Hertford suffered with the sin bin and this was capitalised on in the 30th minute. Hertford’s discipline was letting them down, Bedford Athletic kicked a penalty to the corner and Tom Orton was on hand at the end of a series of drives to touch the ball down under the posts. Mortimer converted for a 16-7 lead. Hertford pressed hard at the end of the first period. Bedford Athletic did well to steal a five metre lineout and although this did not relieve the visiting pressure, a subsequent Hertford charge ended with the ball knocked on just before the line and the home side led 16-7 at the end of the first half.
The second half began with Hertford controlling possession and territory but without creating chances. The home side turned this round in the 52nd minute with another penalty opportunity and Mortimer kicked this for a 19-7 lead. A further attack saw Bedford Athletic exploiting space down the right wing, Leo Mortimer kicked for Josh Cassell to chase but in the end it was Charlie Darlow who glided over for a 26-7 lead, the try converted by Mortimer. Hertford soon fashioned a way back into the game. This largely involved running straight and hard close to the ruck and this led to two further tries. Scrum half Mike Sargeant and second row James Kinsley were the beneficiaries of moves that cut through the Bedford Athletic line and with Lloyd’s conversions the score became 26-21. With 14 minutes to go Hertford were looking to deploy their forward power at every opportunity but the home side had the skill and pace to remain a threat. Leo Mortimer kicked a further penalty for a 29-21 lead. Just needing to control the game Bedford Athletic tried to run the ball from their own line, saw this turned over presenting fly half Lloyd with an opportunity to run past the home defence and score. Missing the conversion narrowed the gap to 29-26. Thereafter Bedford Athletic looked to survive. A series of rucks in the Hertford half appeared to have done the trick until Ben Middleton was sin binned for a spear tackle with two minutes left. Even with a man advantage Hertford could not break their hosts down who ended 29-26 winners.
A ninth win in fourteen matches sees Bedford Athletic moving up to eighth and sets a platform for a push to a top half finish in the table for the season with six games left.