Ath up and running with first victory

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Bedford Athletic won their first National Three Midlands game of the season with a thrilling 36-32 victory at Lichfield on Saturday to climb off the bottom of the table.

The visitors made a poor start as Richard Burton set up Dan Rowlands to score, before the referee had to retire hurt, with a 50 minute delay for a new official to arrive.

Athletic clearly adapted the better of the two sides afterwards as JJ Raven and Jake Foster broke the Lichfield line creating space on the wing for Stuart Livesey to touch down on nine minutes.

Livesey was to the forefront five minutes later as his deft kick through forced the home side to concede a line-out from which Foster was driven over, Steven Smith converting both tries for a 14-5 lead.

Lichfield were back into the game when Harvey Wootton scored to narrow the gap to 14-10, while they led as Will Cotterhill raced fully 50 metres to score and Luke Massey’s boot made it 17-14.

Athletic responded with a try on the half hour when JJ Raven scorched home, Smith’s extras seeing his side in front at 21-17, but the topsy turvy nature saw Lichfield finish the half with a 22-21 advantage through prop Kevin Birt’s try.

In the second period, Bedford Athletic dominated proceedings from the restart, retaking the lead as Smith chipped over the defence and collected the ball for a try he converted on 47 minutes.

The visitors did not stop there as Ben Middleton crossed to put his team 33-22 ahead on 54 minutes.

Lichfield narrowed the deficit when Chris Milner fed Danny Poole to score in the corner.

Smith missed a penalty opportunity to extend the lead but with strong carries from Nick Thomas and Tommy Mills, a dominant tactical kicking display from Smith and the experienced leadership of Ben Middleton, Athletic remained on the front foot, Smith’s 76th minute drop goal stretching the lead to 36-27.

Although Cotterhill grabbed one final try, it was too late as Bedford held on for a welcome first win.

The team entertain Kettering this Saturday in the Bombardier East Midlands Cup quarter-final.