Market Harborough 32 Bedford Athletic 38

A flat performance from Bedford Athletic saw them edge to victory at Market Harborough by 38 points to 32.

The team did well to come back from a 15-3 deficit in the first half to lead by 31 points to 20 at one stage before a late flurry of tries narrowed the gap in the final score.

A scrappy start to the game eventually saw Market Harborough get on top due to some astute tactical kicking that allowed them to control territory and possession. Two sniping darts by scrum half Joe Lafferty led to the first try on 7 minutes and a conversion and a penalty by Monty Maule saw the home side lead 10-0 after ten minutes. Leo Mortimer got Bedford Athletic on the scoreboard with a penalty of his own on 16 minutes but Market Harborough continued to press and with the forward pack making ground they were able to create space out wide for Charlie Page to crash over on the left wing. Mortimer missed with another penalty attempt and it was not until the 27th minute that the visitors managed any attack of note being bundled into touch at the corner flag. Josh Cassell thought he had opened the Bedford Athletic try account minutes later but his effort was ruled out for a double movement. Finally the visitors managed to attack with pace and purpose and with the backs having opened up the home defence Jake Foster was on hand to touch down in the 33rd minute. Better was to come just before half time as Steve Smith broke through several tackles and he offloaded for the pace of Stephen Woodhead to take him to the line for the second try. Leo Mortimer converted both scores and rather incongruously Bedford Athletic led 17-15 at half time.

The only action of note at the start of the second half was Woodhead completing the first 50:22 kick for Bedford Athletic under the new laws but the attacking line out resulted in a crooked throw and the opportunity was gone. The stalemate was finally broken when Rob Watkins who otherwise had a strong impact in a man of the match performance was sin binned for repeated infringements. This put Market Harborough on the front foot and they capitalised with a kick for a lineout and then a drive for the line that was finished off for a try in the corner by Maule in the 53rd minute. The visitor’s response was immediate with a penalty kicked to touch and several strong carries into the home defence led by Foster and Lewis Sharp resulting in Harry Sawford-Smith crashing over the line for a try that with Mortimer’s conversion regained the lead at 24-20. The bonus point should have been secured minutes later but Archie Duncan was incorrectly pulled back as he sped clear for a forward pass that simply didn’t happen in the build up play. He was immediately the victim of a high tackle from the next move that saw Maule go to the sin bin. Now it was the visitor’s turn to take advantage of the extra man. Steve Smith drove another 50:22 kick deep into home territory. The forwards drove with an intensity sometimes lacking at the heart of the defence and eventually when the ball was recycled a huge overlap meant hooker Richie Ellingham just had to fall over the line to score. Mortimer converted. This then led to sustained pressure in the visitor’s 22 as Market Harborough sought to get something from the game. The siege had just been lifted when a floated pass was intercepted and touched down by Laurence Joel for the easiest of scores for the home side. Harry Sawford-Smith claimed the kick off in response and Bedford Athletic were immediately on the attack. A strong run from Charlie Darlow took them to the line and Ben Middleton was on hand to finish the move off and crash over for the 5th try, Mortimer again converting. There was still time for a further consolation score for the home side but Bedford Athletic had done enough to finish ahead on the scoreboard.

The league leaders will be looking to eliminate errors and deliver a higher intensity performance when they host Oadby Wyggestonians on Saturday with a 3pm kick off.