Wimbledon 36 Bedford Athletic 20

A gutsy display from Bedford Athletic was not enough to prevent a 36-20 defeat at league leaders Wimbledon.

A tight game was only decided in the final five minutes when two late tries swung the game the way of the home team.
A poor start saw Bedford Athletic concede possession and Wimbledon worked their way to the visitor’s line a little too easily resulting in a pick up and score for lock Ben Turner. However this did not set the pattern for the rest of the afternoon and once they started to win possession Bedford Athletic showed they carried a threat of their own. Josh Cassell and Liam Walsh broke the line and took play to under the home side’s posts where scrum half Tom Orton was able to whip the ball out for David Simpson to cross for the side’s opening score. Minutes later a marvellous cross field kick from fly half Leo Mortimer on his league debut dropped for Cassell to touch down and open up a 10-5 lead. Wimbledon responded to this set back by slowing the game down and reverting to a series of mauls and drives from set piece possession. Athletic held out well and disrupted a number of these but when openside flanker Jake Foster had to leave the field with an injury Wimbledon scored when scrumhalf Campbell Musson darted round the side of a scrum to touchdown, Freddie Hooper’s conversion giving them a 12-10 lead on 21 minutes. An erratic kicking exchange fell the way of the home side and with defences disorganised Musson scored again this time from 40 yards with Hooper making it 19-10. From the kick off Nick Thomas did well to charge down the clearance kick but any hopes of a score departed as he pulled a hamstring. Nevertheless his sacrifice did not go unrewarded as Mortimer kicked a penalty that narrowed the score to 19-13 at half time.

Wimbledon upped the pace of their game at the start of the second half and a slick move saw Kieran Morris score in the corner. Increasingly relying on forward power it appeared the home side now believed they would take control of the game but once again Bedford Athletic fought back. James Wallace stole a 5 metre lineout and Charlie Darlow won a key turnover penalty in midfield. Wimbledon began to be driven back and the visitors were a little unlucky not to get the benefit of the doubt when a deliberate knock on went unpenalised and a couple of penalty opportunities expired with very short advantages played. Bedford Athletic kept searching for a way back into the game and found it on 62 minutes. Ryan Taylor rumbled the ball forward from a lineout and when he was brought down the ball was switched to the left wing where Cassell beat the defence to the line to score. Mortimer converted from wide out and the game was in the balance at 24-20. Bedford Athletic threw everything they had into attempting the win and came close when Simpson put Cassell in the clear down the left wing but he was hauled down in desperation by the last defender. However Wimbledon took their opportunities on the counter attack and spread the ball wide for Robert Louw to score on 74 minutes and then a skilful Phil Chesters counter attack on 77 minutes when he regathered his own kick ahead sealed the game, Hooper converting the first of these.

Unlucky not to take anything from the game Bedford Athletic return home on Saturday with spirits lifted by the performance if not the result and will take on CS Stags with a 3pm kick off.