A narrow defeat for Bedford Athletic as they went down by 36 points to 34 at home to Hertford.
Despite outscoring their visitors by 6 tries to 5 they were still edged out at the final whistle, although much of the damage was done in the first half when they started by conceding 22 points without replying.
Hertford started by sending the kick off straight out of play but overcame this early set back with the first try in the fourth minute. Both centre Rich Streets and scrum half Michael Sargent carved through the home defence and this created sufficient momentum for no.8 Matt MacDougall to crash over the line, Liam Batty converting. Any possession the home side had was quickly undone with two lost lineouts in succession and this led to them defending in their own 22. The forwards had to work hard to halt Hertford’s driving maul and when the subsequent clearing kick was charged down they had to do it all over again to win the ball back on the floor. Again the clearing kick was charged down and this time Hertford spread the ball wide for wing Charlie Parkhouse to cross for a try on 12 minutes. With the home side having once again coughed up possession in contact, Hertford scored their third try from a midfield scrum with the pace of winger Ben Creasy too much for the defence, Batty’s conversion making it 19-0. Minutes later a Batty penalty made it 22-0 to the visitors in as many minutes. It took until the half hour mark for Bedford Athletic to have a serious attack of their own and by then Nick Thomas, Rob Watkins and Harry Charter were all off the field injured. Having strung a few phases together Athletic found space down the left wing for Archie Simmons to score. Minutes later a deliberate knock on saw Parkhouse sin binned and once the penalty was kicked to touch, Dan Sims smashed over from the lineout drive to narrow the score to 22-10. There was still time for hooker Brett Richmond to be sin binned for retaliation just before half time.
Bedford Athletic scored first at the start of the second half. Having secured possession from the kick off they attacked down the left wing, Archie Simmons kicked ahead and Stephen Woodhead gathered the kick to score, Leo Mortimer’s conversion making it 22-17. Bedford Athletic were now having the better of the play but with the wind against them it took just one mistake for Hertford to be able to launch a clearing kick 50 yards back into the home half. Nevertheless perseverance paid off and on 58 minutes another Steve Smith break took Bedford Athletic to the visitor’s line and Ryan Taylor dotted down to tie the scores. Crucially the next score went to the visitors as they attacked with pace and purpose but were fortunate with a bouncing ball that wrong footed the home defence when it spilled out of a ruck allowing centre Harry Barker to charge through and score under the posts, Batty converting. Bedford Athletic piled on the pressure in response and should have had a penalty try when their attack was illegally stopped on the tryline but not even a yellow card resulted from a refereeing decision that had a major impact on the final result. From the penalty Steve Smith sniped over the line but the try was wide out and the conversion missed as opposed to being automatically awarded with the penalty try. From the restart Hertford scored again when their hosts lost a scrum and a lineout in quick succession, Creasey exploiting the space to touch down again under the posts. Trailing 36-27 Bedford Athletic scored again with three minutes to go as Ben Thompson broke through a tackle and ran a straight line to the posts on his 50th cap for the side, Mortimer converting but the team lacked accuracy in their final attack of the day and the winning points escaped them.
Another defeat does nothing to improve Bedford Athletics’ position adrift in the relegation zone and they now face the challenge of heading to league leaders Guernsey this Saturday.