Colchester 31 Bedford Athletic 13

Bedford Athletic were beaten away to Colchester by 31 points to 13. They should have taken more from the game but in the end spurned a number of opportunities through a lack of accuracy, composure and discipline to leave the home of the league leaders with nothing.

The early stages saw Colchester dominate possession and Bedford Athletic committing a number of unnecessary offences that kept their hosts on the front foot. Eventually the home side found space down the right wing with a seemingly forward pass paving the way for wing Jacob Bodkin to score. Fly-half Jayden Boshoff converted. Gradually the visitors started to hold on to possession but were met with a strong home defence and were restricted to two long-distance penalty kicks at goal which both went wide. Spurned opportunities eventually handled the initiative back to Colchester. Scrambling in defence Josh Cassell was sin-binned for killing the ball. Colchester kicked the penalty to touch and then drove the line out, resulting in a series of rucks close to the visitor’s line and a try for back row Cameron Kerr.

The match should have turned the visitor’s way in the 28th minute when loosehead prop Callum Jeffrey was red-carded for an upright head-on-head tackle reducing the hosts to 14 men. Bedford Athletic needed a number of attacks to stretch the home defences sufficiently to create a try for second-row Ben Middleton. The conversion was missed by Felix Mallalieu. Immediately from the kick off Bedford Athletic surrendered the initiative again when the move to kick out of defence resulted in a charge down by home no.7 Dan Whiteman and he won the race for the line to touch down for the home side’s third try which gave them a 17-5 half time lead.

The second half should have belonged to Bedford Athletic. Already reduced to 14 men, Colchester played 30 minutes of the second half down to 13 as they suffered three successive yellow cards. Yet the visitors lost this period by 14 points to 8. The cards began with second row Sam Easton for a deliberate knock on in the 44thminute and Mallalieu responded with a penalty kick to narrow the gap to 17-8. Bedford Athletic were never able to settle into any sort of rhythm against the 13 men and although they were prepared to go through numerous phases, they were often let down by accuracy at key times. Therefore the next score came to the home side as they dislodged the ball, advanced from a scrum, won a penalty, and the long kick to touch allowed them to set up a driving maul from 15 metres, their only true chance of scoring with reduced numbers, and they crossed for a try to hooker Francois Roussow. Boshoff converted. The next yellow card should have seen a penalty try as well as a deliberate knock on prevented Oli Petrides from crossing the line but in the end the referee deemed centre Chris Lewis leaving the field was punishment enough.

It took Bedford Athletic an age to eventually create a scoring position, with neither scrum nor line out providing them with the platform they would have wanted. Accuracy was missing in the back play as well but with twelve minutes to go the ball was worked wide to replacement winger Ed Parker for the second try of the day for the visitors, again unconverted. Again the initiative was surrendered immediately. The kick off was dropped, Colchester found themselves 15 metres from the visitor’s line and initiated a series of drives resulting in their fifth try of the day, converted by Boshoff. Once restored to 14 men Bedford Athletic could find no further way through the home defence. Although the visitors saw plenty of possession they did not create enough with it particularly in the second half and were cleverly prevented from getting the necessary pace into their game by a side prepared to enthusiastically and often cynically slow play down through fair means and foul.

A break ensues now for the World Cup Final weekend and Bedford Athletic will know that when they return to action in two weeks at home to Oundle they need much greater consistency in performance to string a series of results together that will move them away from the relegation positions and keep them in the top half of the table.