Bedford Athletic emerged triumphant in a local derby against Shelford by 29 points to 15.
In a match played at a high tempo with strong intensity throughout, the home side made their periods of superiority count converting three tries to the visitors two and landing four penalties.
From the kick off Bedford Athletic moved the ball wide and exploited space down the visitor’s left wing leading to Leo Mortimer slotting the first penalty in the second minute. Shelford coming into the encounter having won six of their last seven games turned the ball over from the kick off, attacked with purpose and won a penalty of their own in the fifth minute which Lewis Cracknell converted. Both sides had committed to a high pace of play from the start and it was the home side who next won a succession of penalties and created several scoring opportunities. A lineout catch and drive, a quick tap penalty tackled just short of the line and a cross field move bundled into touch were all chances that the home side could have scored from but resilient Shelford defence kept them at bay and eventually a scrum penalty enabled them to lift the siege in the twentieth minute. Bedford Athletic regrouped and came back through a scrum penalty of their own four minutes later to allow Leo Mortimer the chance to kick them into a 6 points to 3 lead. From the kick off Jake Foster was yellow carded for a high tackle. Although Cracknell hooked the penalty wide, Bedford Athletic were required to take a 22 metre drop out, Shelford counter attacked, won another penalty and this time kicked for an attacking lineout. Having set up the driving maul the visitors made the extra man pay as No.7 Harry Rogerson spun out of the maul and sped away to cross the line for the game’s opening try. Trailing 8-6 Bedford Athletic responded immediately and with real pace on their play being generated from Tom Orton at scrum half they broke the Shelford line with Oli Petrides bursting through and riding one tackle before crossing the line for a try. Mortimer’s conversion added to the lead. Twice more Bedford Athletic turned over the visitor’s possession but couldn’t capitalise on the opportunities created and had to settle for a 13-8 lead at half time.
The second half saw no let up in the ferocity of the play from either side and it was Bedford Athletic who scored first through a Mortimer penalty on 46 minutes. From the next kick off Bedford Athletic counter attacked with speed and purpose getting the ball wide at the earliest opportunity. A kick ahead from Harry Sawford-Smith kept the move going and Josh Cassell accelerated onto the bouncing ball to finish the move with an unconverted try in the corner. Bedford Athletic had much the better of the opening twenty minutes with the back row of Josh Walker, Jake Foster and Andy Ince all making inroads. Another half break by Ince set up position in the Shelford 22 and a series of close range drives allowed prop Ryan Taylor to burst over the line in the 57th minute. Although leading 26-8 the game looked like it might have turned on the hour mark when Harry Sawford-Smith was yellow carded for a high tackle despite Shelford committing many similar offences. Once again with the extra man Shelford were quick to exploit the space and working the ball wide from an attacking lineout centre Euan Rees ghosted through the defence for his side’s second try converted by Cracknell. Shelford went to yet another level in terms of attacking intensity pummelling Bedford Athletic in the loose and winning penalty after penalty in open play. And yet the home defence stood firm absorbing everything thrown at it and refusing to give an inch at scrum time. They were able to relieve pressure when Shelford were penalised for not throwing the ball in straight at a lineout in the final ten minutes and although any clearing kick was returned with pace and power the defence shut these attacks down. In the final minutes Bedford Athletic won a scrum penalty just outside their own 22, Shelford were sent back ten metres twice for back chat and with the penalty just inside the visitor’s half Leo Mortimer landed the kick to secure the game.
Now up to 5th place next up is a trip to Sudbury this coming Saturday with a 2.30pm kick off.