Bedford Athletic edged to a bonus point win in a 32-28 victory at home to Sidcup.
A late try saw them regain the lead right at the end of the game and from there they were able to defend the final minutes for a first league win of the season.
The game started poorly for the home side with a dropped kick off leading to a penalty for holding on kicked by Sam Evans for a 3-0 lead for Sidcup. However, Bedford Athletic were able to respond in kind and Leo Mortimer kicked two penalties from the half way line to give the home side a 6-3 lead. Another error from the restart saw a loose pass in midfield surrender possession and then a late tackle from Josh Cassell earned him a yellow card and Evans kicked the penalty to leave the scores tied at 6-all at the end of the first ten minutes. The man deficit did not thwart the home side and they went on the attack winning a penalty and a lineout deep in the visitors 22 and eventually put Stephen Woodhead through a gap in the visiting defence for the first try of the day on 17 minutes, converted by Mortimer. Sidcup upped the intensity of their game as a result and pushed Athletic back into their own half. Two quick ruck turnovers in succession saw Sidcup on the front foot and they spread the ball wide for right wing Elliot Simmons to score, Evans converting. The pressure kept coming and when Bedford Athletic lost possession at a defensive lineout, Sidcup quickly capitalised to score again this time through left wing Louis Keeley. Evans missed the conversion, but Sidcup led 18-13 on 32 minutes. A lapse in concentration before half time allowed Bedford Athletic back into the game. Rob Watkins stole an overthrown lineout and although he was stopped just short of the line, Ben Middleton carried on the good work to score an equalising try. Bedford Athletic had the lead seconds later as Archie Duncan fielded the kick off, weaved his way through the visiting defence and several phases later it was Harry Sawford-Smith who broke to the line to score. Mortimer converted the first of these tries and Bedford Athletic led 25-18 at half time.
The start of the second half saw Bedford Athletic trapped in their own half unable to escape the pressure being exerted by the visiting side. They had several opportunities to do so but every time a key penalty was won, or a lineout or scrum earned, the ball was turned over through sloppy play or an unforced error. Sidcup missed a penalty before their pressure finally paid off with a series of scrums close to the home line with No.8 Jon West eventually picking up to dive over on 57 minutes. The home side were penalised from the kick off and were once again reduced to defensive duties as Sidcup dominated territory and possession. Stern defence held the visitors at bay and Sidcup contented themselves with a penalty kick at goal in the 68th minute to take a 28-25 lead and then return for the bonus point try opportunity. But that opportunity never came as the home side outlasted their visitors in the final ten minutes and with their third attack of the half breached the Sidcup defence with a searing run from Sawford-Smith finding Jake Foster in support for their bonus point try. Mortimer’s conversion from wide out with five minutes to play left Sidcup needing a try to prevail but a couple of penalties and a crunching tackle from captain Watkins put paid to their efforts and Bedford Athletic held on for the win.
With the first five-point victory of the season gained Bedford Athletic will now look to build some momentum into their season with an away game at Hertford on Saturday and a home game against Tunbridge Wells on November 3rd kicking off at 2.30pm with both opponents currently also in the bottom five of the league table.