Westcliff 17 Bedford Athletic 13

A gritty performance from Bedford Athletic saw them go down 17-13 away to Westcliff.

Despite the result bringing an end to a six game unbeaten run, the losing bonus point and results elsewhere meant the scoreline was enough to ensure league safety for this season.

Facing the team occupying third position in the league and still harbouring ambitions of promotion, Bedford Athletic started well. They could have had the first score when Steve Smith found space and released Jake Foster down the left wing. He was tackled into touch, but maintaining the pressure, Athletic had a five metre scrum and a cross field kick from David Simpson just failed to find Stephen Woodhead. Westcliff worked their way back into the game and had several chances to score but excellent visiting defence kept them at bay. Ryan Taylor won a turnover penalty five metres from his own line, Westcliff scrum half Henry Morrant failed to ground the ball in the act of scoring and Rob Watkins majestically stole an attacking line-out on the visitors line. Matters may have turned out even better when a mazy run from Stephen Woodhead took Bedford Athletic deep into the home half, but strong defence snuffed out the danger. Eventually it took a mistake to open the scoring with Bedford Athletic losing possession as they ran the ball out of defence, the turnover allowing Westcliff no. 8 James Smith to touch down on 38 minutes. Immediately Bedford Athletic narrowed the score through a Steve Smith penalty and Westcliff held a small 7-3 advantage at half time.

As soon as they got their hands on the ball in the second half and started to have space to play Bedford Athletic looked dangerous. The midfield of David Simpson, Steve Smith and Harry Sawford-Smith started to cause all sorts of problems for their hosts and their first break was finished off by Smith on 46 minutes. Their second was finished off by Jake Foster two minutes later and Bedford Athletic led 13-7. The momentum was lost when Watkins was sin binned for a high tackle and Ben McKeith made the score 13-10 on 52 minutes. With a man advantage Westcliff resorted to a kicking game which really got them nowhere until on the hour mark they exploited a gap at a ruck and centre Seb Reynolds scored, McKeith converted. Then Westcliff had wing Ross Merrick sin binned for a spear tackle and Bedford Athletic began to grow into the ascendancy. With an increase in pressure came a rise in penalties, however trailing by four points the visitors wanted to go for a win. They elected for a number of scrums and line-outs in the home 22 but ultimately could not make them pay and strong Westcliff defence saw them hold out for the victory.

Denying the promotion chasing team a bonus point at home was a moral success and as it transpired with defeats for Brentwood and Chingford the result was enough to see Bedford Athletic preserve their level 5 status which has always been the first objective of this season. With three games to play the side can now look to finish with a flourish, starting at home to Guildford on Saturday with a 3pm kick off.