Athletic battle back but Kettering take the spoils

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Bedford Athletic lost a close game at home to league leaders Kettering by a solitary point, going down 26-25.

Having been behind by 21 points to 5 at one stage, Athletic staged a strong comeback in the second half but ultimately had only two bonus points to show for their afternoon’s efforts.

Tommy Mills burst through the defence to score the first try of the day, and Athletic continued to press after their bright start.

As the half wore on, however, errors began to creep into the home side’s game and they were fortunate when visiting full-back Joe Daniel missed two penalties.

Their luck ran out when, from another penalty, Kettering launched a simple line out catch and drive touched down by George Newman and converted by Daniel.

The final quarter of an hour produced more of the same as Athletic struggled to get out of their own half.

On 34 minutes Kettering opened up the left wing for James Taylor to score and, on the stroke of half-time, a chip kick out of defence went horribly wrong as Taylor charged it down and then gathered the loose ball to score the third try. Daniel’s conversions gave Kettering a 21-5 half time lead.

Athletic realised the necessary intensity and accuracy had been missing from their game and they came storming back in the second half.

James Mortimer started to use the wind to good effect, kicking deep into Kettering territory, and on 44 minutes Charlie Darlow went over in the right hand corner for a try that Mortimer converted.

Minutes later Tommy Mills repeated the trick on the left wing for an unconverted score, and on 52 minutes Mortimer kicked a penalty to narrow the gap to 21-20.

At this point, with Luke Levitt LPT man of the match Guiseppe Picanza to the fore in the close exchanges, Bedford were dominating all aspects of play.

However, a series of midfield scrum errors handed possession back to Kettering and a clever kick through by Daniel set up a series of attacks from which he scored to extend the visitors’ lead to 26-20.

On 69 minutes the home side replied as Rob Watkins burrowed over in the corner to narrow the gap to a point, but Kettering had done enough to hold on and win the game.