Bedford Athletic were edged out away to Tunbridge Wells by 35 points to 30.
A poor start to the second half saw the side concede 20 points without reply, surrendering a half time lead and just leaving themselves too much to do to claw the game back at the death.
Penalties were conceded almost from the first minute of the game and this gave Frank Reynolds the chance to give the home side an early lead with the boot. Bedford Athletic did respond and strong carries in the middle of the park led to two penalties of their own, both converted by Leo Mortimer for a 6-3 lead. On a miserably wet afternoon territory would be all important and it was Tunbridge Wells who imposed themselves first. Driving their visitors deep they forced a lineout, won another penalty and then sent a driving maul over Athletics’ line, Stuart Nicholls dotting down. This first try went unconverted but the second was, when again penalties allowed Tunbridge Wells inside the 22 and this time a series of pick and drives resulted in a try for no.8 Nick Doherty and a 15-6 lead on 25 minutes. Bedford Athletic came right back into the game before the interval as firstly a grubber kick through the defence by Mortimer set up a try for James Wallace and then a scrum penalty led to a driving maul from a lineout and a touchdown for Dan Sims. Mortimer converted both for a 20-15 half time lead.
The start of the second half saw Bedford Athletic on the attack and with a chance to score but a poor pass and a dropped ball saw their hosts hack the ball clear and win a length of the field chase for a try to George Montgomery. Reynolds made it 22-20 with the boot and suddenly the momentum shifted completely to the home side. A charge down from a 22 drop out sandwiched between two needless offside penalties gave Reynolds two further kicks at goal, the second of which was converted for a 25-20 lead. A direct kick to touch invited further pressure and a penalty for 28-20 and the sequence of errors and poor decisions was complete when a poor kick chase allowed Tunbridge Wells to run back at their visitors with a try for full back Ryan Taylor-Dennehy which Reynolds converted on 65 minutes. To their credit Bedford Athletic then showed great character to come back into the game and secure two bonus points aided by a strong set piece that dominated throughout. Josh Cassell made the initial thrust that set up a series of drives where Nick Thomas burst through the defence and Dan Sims scored a try on 72 minutes. Four minutes later Steve Smith found space on the outside to sell a dummy to the full back and score the bonus point try. Trailing by 5 points Bedford Athletic finished the game with another scrum penalty and two lineout drives into the home 22 but the final drive was turned over and the chance of the win was gone.
The match showed that Bedford Athletic are very capable of competing in this league but their error count and poor discipline make life unnecessarily difficult in a game they looked likely to win at half time. A home game against Oundle in the East Midlands Cup this Saturday, kick off 2.15, gives the side a chance to improve these areas before the key visit of bottom three side London Irish Wildgeese in the league in two weeks time.