Sandbach 37 Bedford Athletic 37

Bedford Athletic were relegated following a 37-all draw away to Sandbach.

An extraordinary match saw them outscore their hosts by six tries to three, yet still fail to come away with a win and as a result they drop back down to the league below for next season.

From the kick off Sandbach gathered possession, drew the penalty and Ben Elliott slotted the first points of the day. Having secured Athletics’ kick off in turn Sandbach pretty much repeated the dose and Elliott made it 6-0 in the 5th minute with Bedford Athletic yet to touch the ball. The visitor’s response however was emphatic. From a lineout, Stephen Woodhead created the extra space and the ball was quickly moved across the back line for Stuart Livesey to score in the left hand corner. The conversion was missed. Andy Ince caught the restart and punched holes in the home defence before Livesey and Charlie Darlow linked up well allowing Darlow to touch down by the posts. James Mortimer kicked the conversion. On 20 minutes Woodhead again made ground up the middle of the park and this time when play was switched to the right it was Steve Smith who was on hand to score the try. The conversion was missed. Six minutes later it was Ben Beagent who broke through and when the ball was recycled he finished off his own good work with the try that brought up the Bedford Athletic try bonus point on 26 minutes. The conversion was missed. On the half hour Elliott slotted a penalty and when a loose pass went to ground the pendulum swing Sandbach’s way as they hacked through, forced a 5 metre scrum and a penalty try. This was converted and although Bedford Athletic missed with a penalty of their own they still led 22-16 at half time.

Elliott reduced that gap with another penalty from half way just after the restart but this didn’t diminish Athletics’ scoring appetite. On 45 minutes it was Steve Smith who jinked through the home defence setting up the ruck from where play was spread to the right wing for John Clarke to score. The conversion was missed. Seven minutes later Bedford Athletic ran the ball from a lineout and Darlow finished off the move for his second try of the day, Mortimer’s conversion advancing the lead to 34-19. Once again Elliott reduced the arrears with a penalty and from the kick off, Sandbach ran the ball back through the entire Bedford Athletic side for Liam Carpenter to score, Elliott’s conversion attempt hitting the post. However he was successful with his sixth penalty of the day in the 63rd minute to make the score 34-30 and Sandbach took the lead when a fortuitous ricochet landed in the hands of wing Elliott Morris to cross with 13 minutes left to play. Elliott’s conversion made the score 37-34. By now Sandbach appeared to have the momentum to go on and win the game but the visitor’s held firm and it was they who had the penalty attempt with two minutes left to play that Mortimer successfully kicked.

The match ended in a draw but when news filtered through that Longton had come from 32-14 down to beat Derby by a point in the final minute Bedford Athletics’ relegation was confirmed. They next host Sheffield on Saturday at Putnoe Wood with a 3.00pm kick off.