Bedford Athletic secured a comprehensive 42-17 win away to near neighbours Letchworth. In a display that was marked by character and determination, they ultimately had an intensity their hosts couldn’t match as the visitors stormed into a 29-3 halftime lead.
The early stages were contested in Letchworth’s half with captain Nick Thomas making the first break of the day which led to a penalty that Leo Mortimer kicked on 4 minutes. Bedford Athletic maintained the pressure, forcing their hosts to play from deep and when Andy Ince charged the ball down they immediately got on the front foot with a penalty under the posts quickly taken by scrum half Michael Trigg who dived over for the try, Mortimer converting. Letchworth responded with a penalty of their own kicked by fly-half Josh Sharp but Bedford Athletic were not deterred, Mortimer missing a further penalty soon after. Although possession was mainly with the home side a very strong defensive effort from the visitors kept them trapped in their own half with the Bedford Athletic forwards Ince, Jake Foster and Nick Thomas leading the charge to drive Letchworth backwards and eventually force mistakes. When the turnovers came the visitors had the backs to take advantage of them and it was full back Oli Petrides that started the move for the second try switching play across the pitch to find Harry Sawford-Smith in space and he broke through and ran past several flailing tackles on his way to the second try, Mortimer converting. Felix Mallalieu returning to the side at inside centre following a year away, fielded the restart and broke behind the home defence. Petrides carried play on down the left wing and cleverly waited for support to ensure another scoring pass for Sawford-Smith. And as Letchworth visibly wilted in the heat, it was Andy Ince who then broke through a tackle and outpaced the home full back to the line for the bonus point try, Mortimer converting for the 29-3 half time lead.
A lapse in concentration by the visitors at the start of the second half gifted Letchworth field position and from there they pummeled the visiting defence with Jack Askham eventually scoring the try, Sharp converting from out wide. Bedford Athletic responded in kind. From a midfield scrum a set play from the backs sliced open the home defence with winger Stephen Woodhead joining the line late and setting Mallalieu free for a score under the posts. Mortimer converted in the 46thminute and soon after added a penalty to push the side 5 tries clear at 39-10 in the 53rd minute. Matters could have gone significantly wrong for the visitors when Woodhead was red carded for a high tackle four minutes later. They had time to consolidate their lead with another Mortimer penalty before Letchworth did indeed make the extra man count, a series of pick and gos close to the Bedford Athletic line eventually resulting in a try for scrum half Harvey Howman. But Sharp’s conversion was to be as close as they got as Bedford Athletic settled into a resilient defensive pattern and continued to frustrate any momentum for the home side. This was best demonstrated by a fantastic 50:22 kick from man of the match Mallalieu that allowed Bedford Athletic to launch a series of final attacks with Jake Foster desparate to but not quite managing to get over the line for a try on his 100th appearance for the first XV.
Bedford Athletic will look to take the momentum and confidence from this much improved performance into another local derby this Saturday at home to Old Northamptonians at 3pm on a day when the second XV will start their historic first season in the RFU leagues at home to Newmarket also with a 3pm kick off.