An inept first half performance saw Bedford Athletic go down 44-22 away to Tring.
A credible second half recovery saw them emerge with a try bonus point although ultimately this was the maximum that could be salvaged on a dismal afternoon for rugby.
The match was played in horrendous conditions with driving rain, gale force winds and near freezing temperatures prevalent throughout. Much of Bedford Athletics’ difficulties came from an inability to adapt to the elements. First half possession was dominated by a continuous series of pick and go phases that made little headway against a well drilled defence and invariably ended with an error or indiscipline that cost possession and territory. By contrast Tring drilled the ball deep into the visitors 22 at every opportunity. The first try came from a lucky bounce of the ball but Tring profited by driving play deep into the heart of the defence and then spreading play wide for wing Charles Goss-Lambourne to score, Tom Newton converting. Bedford Athletic continued to hammer away without gain in the middle of the park and when Newton drove them backwards again with a booming penalty on 26 minutes his forwards secured the lineout catch and drive for George Hayes to score. Tring nearly repeated the effort minutes later but this time a fumble gave Bedford Athletic a defensive scrum from which they were able to win a penalty and clear. However as they inched their way up the pitch they conceded another penalty that Newton kicked to add to his conversion of the second try and a 17-0 lead. The kick off then failed to go ten metres and the visiting forwards overran the ball allowing wing Jake Olley to go half the length of the pitch. He was hauled down just short of the line but with the ball recycled across the defence it was full back Ben Criddle who scored next and from another driving lineout he crashed over by the posts on the stroke of half time, Newton converting both tries for a 31-0 lead.
Tring began the second half again dominating possession and territory, Newton adding another penalty on 42 minutes. He missed with a further attempt minutes later and the tide began to turn. David Simpson moved into fly half and he began to consolidate territory for his side. Freddie Boyce smashed through the centre of the park and set up the position from which Nick Thomas barged his way over for the visitor’s first try on 54 minutes. Another deep kick from Simpson set up a 5 metre lineout from which Bedford Athletic battered away at the home defence before a well judged grubber kick from Simpson allowed Josh Cassell to dart through and score on the hour. Three minutes later Simpson again found a hole in the Tring defence to put Stephen Woodhead through the gap for a try to narrow the score to 34-15. In the 68th minute he got his just reward as Bedford Athletic once again shunted the Tring pack off their own ball and Simpson ran hard and through the defence for the bonus point try which he himself converted to make the score 34-22. Thereafter Tring fought their way back into the contest. Newton landed a penalty on 72 minutes and although Athletic yet again destroyed the home pack at a scrum their final break of the day was turned over and Tring responded in turn. Amidst the deepening gloom the referee failed to spot a couple of forward passes and at least one knock on but he was probably cold and soaked at this point and too far behind play in any case and so Olley was allowed to cross for the final try. Newton’s conversion gave him 19 points in a game in which Tring only edged the try count by 5 to 4.
Conditions are unlikely to be so poor again so it may be there is little to learn from this outing. Bedford Athletic finish the calendar year travelling to Bedford Swifts this Saturday for a Bedfordshire Cup tie.