A testing afternoon for Bedford Athletic saw them go down to defeat at Paviors by 45 points to 24.
Outscored by seven tries to three, the team succumbed to four second half tries and were unable to re-establish a foothold in the game in that period despite Paviors incurring three yellow cards and playing 30 minutes with 14 men.
The early signs were good as Bedford Athletic were quickly on top in the forwards and particularly the scrum. A scrum penalty on 8 minutes was kicked to the corner and a lineout catch and drive was touched down by Rob Watkins for the first try of the day, James Mortimer converting. Paviors response was immediate as from a handling error they ran the ball back at the visitors following a midfield scrum and wing Alex Barton evaded a couple of tackles to score in the corner, George Billam converting. Bedford Athletic kept the pressure up in the forwards in particular and another catch and drive routine saw Jake Foster break away for the second try on 18 minutes, Mortimer again converting. Paviors began to control possession and this saw the visitors forced onto the back foot. Matters took a turn for the worse on 25 minutes as Andy Ince was forced off through injury and Josh McCann received a yellow card for a late tackle. Bedford Athletic appeared to have survived the immediate pressure as they twice drove Paviors off the ball at the set piece scrum but on the second occasion were deemed to have done so illegally. From the penalty Paviors made their man advantage tell as from a catch and drive close to the Athletic line scrum half Jon Green was able to cross. It was then Paviors turn to drop to 14 men as centre Terio Veilawa was penalised for tackling the man without the ball. The visitors took immediate advantage as Jake Foster powered through the centre of the park and created space for Stephen Woodhead to cross for the third try which Mortimer converted for a 21-12 lead at half time.
Bedford Athletic looked to up the pace at the start of the second half and immediately won a penalty kicked by Mortimer. However their discipline also began to suffer and Billam began to make them pay as midfield penalties were drilled mercilessly into the corners for Paviors to set up several catch and maul attempts. The first of these was successful on 47 minutes with No.8 Alistair Plant touching down but he was soon in the sin bin when Athletic applied pressure of their own following multiple home penalties conceded close to their own line. An away lineout throw that must have been marginally not straight was nevertheless called by the referee and Paviors relieved the pressure and returned to the attack. Bedford Athletic appeared to have weathered the storm as they once again drove a defensive scrum forward in their own 22 but lost control of the ball at the base with Chris Tipton pouncing for an opportunistic try on 58 minutes. Billam’s conversion made the score 26-24 and when Bedford Athletic were offside in midfield five minutes later the penalty was once again drilled by Billam into the corner for the forwards to try and maul their way over the visitor’s line. Although this tactic was repelled in the middle of the park, this time the home team spread the ball wide and Rob Ratcliffe crossed on the left wing, Billam converting the try for a 33-24 lead. With quarter of an hour to play Bedford Athletic did not panic and sought to take the game back to their hosts. However they lacked a cutting edge and too often their running lines were lateral. The third yellow card of the day for Paviors went to full back Matt Molyneaux for a high tackle but it made little difference. Eventually yet another slowly building attack was intercepted and Paviors raced the length of the field for Veilawa to score the try to settle the result. In the final minute having conceded yet another penalty, Paviors burst through the visitor’s lines for a seventh try scored by Doug Billam, converted by George to add a bit of gloss to the scoreline.
The afternoon was certainly a lesson for Bedford Athletic in terms of discipline and decision making. The team will have an opportunity to see how much they have learned when they host 4th place Peterborough on Saturday at Putnoe Wood with a 2.15pm kick off.