Bedford Athletic rose from the grave to defeat visitors Dorking by 50 points to 38.
In a match in which the home side were dead and buried, trailing 24-12 at half time and 38-19 with half an hour left to play they scored 5 tries and 31 unanswered points in the final half an hour to claim victory.
The first try of the day went to Bedford Athletic when Steve Smith broke from the first scrum, put Harry Sawford-Smith into a gap and then Stephen Woodhead finished the try off on 4 minutes, Leo Mortimer converting. However, this was very much against the run of play with Dorking dominating possession and Athletic struggling for fluency and accuracy in putting any phases together that might have allowed them to relieve the pressure. Some fine defensive tackles initially kept Dorking at bay but the pressure was too continuous and eventually the line was breached with scrum half Henry Smith going over on 18 minutes. The home response was almost immediate when Woodhead was tackled into touch at the corner flag following a mistake in the Dorking defence and if Dorking survived this, they did not survive a turnover minutes later when Josh Cassell was set free down the left wing for his first try of the day. A lost lineout gave Dorking possession deep in home territory and they capitalised with Harry Watts equalising the scores. Dorking were still having much the better of the game as Bedford Athletic struggled to string any phases together. The home side manfully defended a five metre scrum on 36 minutes but when play went wide wing Thomas Hunt touched down for a Dorking lead. Moments later Dorking attacked in the wide channels but spilled the ball forward in the tackle. The referee waved play on and fly half Matt Noble sauntered over for a try to add to two first half conversions and a deserved 24-12 half time lead to Dorking.
Two mistakes from the restart saw Bedford Athletic on the defensive again and from an attacking lineout Noble ghosted through a gap to put wing Rory Mitchell in for his side’s fifth try which he converted. Straight running from the home backs paid dividends when they were able to conjure a chance for Steve Smith to narrow the score on 48 minutes, Mortimer adding the conversion but the game seemed settled when Athletic attacked again down the left wing and with the scoring pass intercepted Dorking responded with a length of the field counter that saw Hunt cross for his second try. Noble converted for a 38-19 lead. This gave no indication of the drama about to unfold. Two key changes saw Stephen Woodhead move to scrum half and Ryan Taylor come on to bolster the front row. Immediately Taylor earned a scrum penalty, Andy Ince took a quick tap and powered into the home defence and the ball was spread wide for Charlie Darlow to cross for the bonus point try. A wayward clearance kick was run back hard by Darlow, Smith and Cassell and with the defence melting before him Cassell crossed for his second score. Two further conversions from Mortimer had made it 33-38 on the hour mark. Suddenly Bedford Athletic were dominant in every department. They tied the scores on 66 minutes when strong running again broke the defence and Sawford-Smith made it 38-all. Another scrum penalty allowed Bedford Athletic a penalty kick deep into the Dorking half and a 30 metres catch and drive maul saw Nick Thomas power over for the try that brought the lead. Dorking had no response and once more Bedford Athletic poured forward to the Dorking line and following several pick and gos it was hooker Liam Walsh who squeezed over for the eighth try, Mortimer’s conversion bringing up the 50. Dorking did launch one final attack but debutant Morgan Dayes drove the attacking player into touch and Bedford Athletic had fashioned a remarkable victory.
Now six points clear of the relegation places the side travel to Oundle on Saturday for an East Midlands Cup semi final.