Shelford 22 Bedford Athletic 29

Bedford Athletic overcame a second half fightback by their hosts Shelford to record a 29 points to 22 victory.

Leading 19 points to 3 at half time and securing the try bonus point shortly after that built a platform from which the side were able to resist the onslaught from bottom of the table Shelford in the final half an hour.

The first fifteen minutes produced a robust contest with both sides tackling hard, probing in attack and covering well in defence as the play ebbed and flowed. It was unfortunate for Shelford that the attempt by fly half Josh Simmons to break this pattern backfired. His chip over the top bounced away from him and into the hands of the advancing James Yates. He set a platform from which Bedford Athletic were able to exploit a disorganised defence and spread the ball wide to Stephen Woodhead who scored the first try, James Mortimer converting. Minutes later Shelford overthrew a lineout and from turnover ball centre Steve Smith jinked his way through the home defence for the second try. Unfortunately this was to be his last act in the game as he left the field injured and Shelford finally turned some pressure into points when Lewis Cracknell kicked a penalty on 23 minutes. Bedford Athletic responded again two minutes later when a Mortimer cross field kick was gathered by Harry Sawford-Smith, on as a replacement, and he scored the third try. The match was probably won and lost in the quarter of an hour before half time. Shelford piled on the pressure with several set pieces and a series of phases close to the Bedford Athletic line. Strong defence ensured they were held up short and when they returned to the attack James Wallace won a vital turnover penalty. Once the danger was cleared Bedford Athletic had a 19-3 half-time lead.

The visitors capitalised on their defensive effort at the start of the second half. A quick tap penalty saw Andy Ince make ground through the centre before the side once again exploited a disorganised defence with captain Rob Watkins on hand to finish the move for the bonus point try. Shelford finally got their first try on 50 minutes when pressure close to their visitor’s line paid off and Harry Rogerson crashed over by the posts, Cracknell converting. Bedford Athletic came straight back in response with scrum half Robbie Locke fielding a clearance kick and then starting the move that he himself finished for a try in the corner and a 29-10 lead. Shelford re-organised their back line moving Mike Gillick to fly half and came at their visitors strongly in the final half hour. They had some luck when the referee failed to spot a knock on at the base of the ruck and catching Bedford Athletic off guard they ran in from 60 metres for a try to Frederick Betteridge. The missed conversion left two scores in the game at 29-15 with 23 minutes left to play. Further pressure was only alleviated when Josh Cassell kicked clear. Bedford Athletic had one further chance of a score when a trundling maul was collapsed on the Shelford line and their hosts cleared the danger from the resulting scrum, a facet of play where they struggled all day. They did finally score again on 77 minutes when they dropped the ball at the back of a lineout but wrong footed the Bedford Athletic defence for scrum half Jack Harvey to cross with Cracknell converting. This made the score close at 29-22 but Bedford Athletic defended the final minutes for their first away win of the season.

Bedford Athletic are back in home action on Saturday as they take on second place Westcliff at Putnoe Wood with a 2.30pm kick off.