Bedford Athletic prevailed in a top of the table clash against unbeaten Dronfield by 34 points to 28.
In a match where eight tries were shared the home side crucially scored at the right times to keep control of the encounter and maintain their own unbeaten record.
Josh Cassell claimed the home kick off and this led to a sustained period of pressure on the visitor’s line. A number of penalties were conceded in quick succession but eventually Bedford Athletic got a driving maul from a lineout across the line without it being stopped illegally touched down by Nick Thomas and with Leo Mortimer’s conversion led 7-0. They didn’t secure the restart and this eventually gave Dronfield a penalty chance which full back Joe Farrell converted to narrow the gap. Mortimer was on target with a penalty chance of his own to reinstate the seven point lead after Jake Foster won a penalty at the breakdown for the tackled player holding on to the ball. Once again Bedford Athletic did not clear their lines from the kick off and this again allowed Dronfield to force the penalty which Farrell converted to make it 10-6. A sloppy fifteen minutes from the home side in which they failed to control possession and therefore territory saw Dronfield eventually take the lead. A disguised looping run from fly half Alex Arch created the space to enable him to draw the last defender and put wing James Marshall in the clear for the try and an 11-10 lead in the 26th minute. Man of the match Nick Thomas secured a significant momentum shift for the home side on the half hour mark as he drove Dronfield off their own ruck ball and with the turnover in possession Bedford Athletic advanced, won a penalty, kicked to the corner and from another rolling maul Rob Watkins was on hand to touch down, Mortimer’s conversion assisting in regaining the lead. Suddenly looking more comfortable on the ball a further Bedford Athletic attack secured another penalty which Leo Mortimer converted on the stroke of half time for a 20 points to 11 lead.
A powerful start to the second half saw the home side push Dronfield off their own scrum ball and a couple of penalties later they found themselves attacking on the visitor’s line. Once again Dronfield had no answer to the driving maul and this time the illegal collapse led to a penalty try. Bedford Athletic very nearly put the game to bed minutes later as wing Luke Denham escaped up the left wing but a foot in touch stopped a near certain try. Instead it was the visitors who scored next with a touch down for wing Jack Longden on the counter attack as the home side’s accuracy let them down in possession. The match nearly became closer than Bedford Athletic would have liked as Dronfield once more profited from errors in possession from the home side and although a series of rucks were manfully defended near the home side’s try line this left space out wide and only a forward pass stopped Dronfield from a certain try. A superior set piece was enabling Bedford Athletic to prevent Dronfield from getting a foothold in the game and eventually the bonus point try came on 72 minutes when Rob Watkins stole a line out, Harry Sawford-Smith made a powerful burst through the line, Mike Trigg added support and Watkins finished off the move for a deserved try. This stretched the lead to 34-16 but ill discipline allowed Dronfield back into the game. Having been marched back 50 metres for expressing their frustration at the referee not rewarding their scrum dominance, Bedford Athletic could not prevent a third Dronfield try on 78 minutes from a penalty close to their own line. When Sawford-Smith secured the kick off that should have sealed the result but the home side somehow contrived to lose possession, Josh Cassell was sin binned for a high tackle in defence, further penalties allowed Dronfield territory and they exploited the extra man for the final try of the game.
Still unbeaten Bedford Athletic will face another unbeaten side for the fourth game in a row on Saturday as the final two perfect records in the league go head to head at Kettering with a 3.00pm kick off.