Bedford Athletic went down 46-39 at home to promotion contenders Sheffield at Putnoe Wood.
In yet another ridiculous high scoring encounter Bedford Athletic crossed for six tries but this once more was not enough for more than losing and try bonus points as the search for a first league win since Christmas went on.
Early pressure led to an early try for the home side as from a series of penalties in the Sheffield 22 a quick tap from Tom Orton saw the first score of the day on 5 minutes. Bedford Athletic retained the initiative and minutes later Steve Smith broke the line, allowing Stuart Livesey the space to score the second try of the day five minutes later. Sheffield responded with pressure of their own and following a series of rucks close to the home side’s line it was Matt Adcock who crossed for their first try that went unconverted. David Simpson was sin binned for a late tackle from the kick off but this did not appear to quench the home side’s efforts. On 15 minutes, Jake Foster stole a lineout, Tom Orton deceived the defence with a blindside break and Josh Cassells sprinted away for the third try of the day. Better was to follow as the Sheffield defence was once again caught napping from a line out and although the initial home surge was halted the ball was still spun wide to Charlie Darlow who crossed for the fourth and bonus point try on 19 minutes. James Mortimer converted for a 22-5 lead. Gradually the visitors began to impose themselves on the game. They were dominating territory and although several attacks were successfully repelled by the home defence eventually they built up a head of steam. A 30 metre rolling maul set the platform and when the ball was spread wide to the backs, Gareth Morley went through a defensive hole to set up scrum half Steve Depledge for his first try of the day on 34 minutes. Bedford Athletic looked to hold their ground to halftime but a penalty concession allowed Sheffield a catch and drive attempt that was spun out to the backs for wing Jack Hedley to score. Bedford Athletic led 22-15 at half time.
The early stages of the second half were dominated by Sheffield as they controlled territory and possession and as a result won all the penalty decisions. Scrum half Depledge crossed for the equalising score on 47 minutes and five minutes later the home defence jumped out of the line looking for the interception allowing outside centre Rupert Broadley to cross for a fifth try, Andy Hodgson’s conversions giving Sheffield a 29-22 lead. When Bedford Athletic got their hands on the ball they caused problems and a series of attacks led to a penalty chance converted by Mortimer on the hour mark. An immediate response from the Sheffield team saw a try for Gareth Morley and Hodgson’s conversion saw Sheffield moving clear at 36-25. Undaunted the home side deployed a catch and drive rolling maul of their own which Ryan Taylor touched down and Mortimer converted but when Sheffield missed a penalty, the home side failed to clear the drop out, Jack Hedley made yards down the left wing and then was on hand to finish off the score. Hodgson converted for a 43-32 lead but two minutes later Charlie Darlow had bust through the centre of the visiting defence to narrow the score alongside Mortimer’s conversion to 43-39 with eight minutes to play. A long kick and chase won Bedford Athletic a five metre scrum but they could not make their pressure count and Sheffield cleared the danger and won a penalty from the final play of the day to secure a 46-39 win.
Bedford Athletic will be left wondering what they need to do to win a game and maybe they can find the answers away to bottom club Syston this coming Saturday.