Bedford Athletic succumbed to a last minute try to go down 26-25 at home to Old Northamptonians. In a match dominated by penalties a flurry of tries in the final minutes put a gloss on what was otherwise a disappointing encounter that the away side just deserved to edge.
Bedford Athletic had the early initiative and a couple of breaks from Harry Sawford-Smith gave them territory in their visitor’s half but ultimately they had to settle for the first points of the day being a penalty kicked by Leo Mortimer on 7 minutes. The home side looked like they had escaped a response when Old Northamptonianskicked a penalty dead but from the resulting scrum they were shoved off their own ball, scrum half Lewis Barker led a pacy counter attack and a timely kick through saw wing James Greensmith accelerate to the line for a try he himself converted. This put the away side in the ascendancy and they added to their score five minutes later with a further Greensmith penalty to lead 10-3. Mortimer responded with a penalty for the home side but play in general was very disjointed and error strewn with clear cut chances at a premium. Bedford Athletic were struggling to gain any set piece ball and as a result were lacking in possession and continuity. Another scrum penalty saw Old Northamptonians extend their lead to 13-6 through Greensmith but Bedford Athletic did hit back before half time with yet another kick from the tee to make the score 13-9.
The second half started positively with Bedford Athletic making ground and putting their visitors under pressure. Mortimer kicked another penalty to narrow the gap to a point but immediately from the kick off possession was fumbled and the error compounded with another penalty conceded for Greensmith to convert. Momentum looked like it might have swung Old Northamptonians way in the 51st minute. Another dropped kick led to an attacking scrum for them inside their hosts half. Further pressure saw another penalty conceded and then in trying to stop a quick tap Bedford Athletic captain Nick Thomas was sin binned. Old Northamptoniansstruggled to make the man advantage count and only secured a further Greensmith penalty at the end of the ten minute period. Mortimer quickly countered with a kick of his own for the home side and then they had a man advantage when replacement back Sam Connor was yellow carded for offside. Mortimer kicked a further penalty as a result to narrow the gap to 19-18. Finally a 50:22 kick from Felix Mallalieu gave Bedford Athletic an attacking platform and from the lineout a drive rumbled toward their visitor’s line until Andy Ince had the ball knocked from his hands in the act of scoring. Eventually the home side did find a way through as Mallalieu found the edge of the defence, set full back Archie Duncan free to run into space, he was supported by Ashley Elvers who supplied the scoring pass for Josh Cassell to touch down his 133rd try in 150 appearances. Mortimer converted for a 25-19 lead with a minute to defend it. This the side failed to do. A screwed clearance kick left Old Northamptonians with an attacking lineout on their hosts 22 metre line, the referee was already playing advantage from the rolling maul before Barker picked up and sniped over from the ensuing ruck, Greensmith adding the vital conversion.
Another home performance lacking in intensity and accuracy saw a second successive home defeat but in many respects a match littered with penalties was truly spoilt by the RFU’s new tackle laws which stifled continuity on both sides. Nevertheless, Bedford Athletic will need to perform on the road again as they travel to bottom side Westcliff this coming Saturday with a 3pm kick off.