Athletic start with a defeat against title favourites Syston

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Bedford Athletic started the new season where they finished the last as they were beaten 20-8 at Syston.

The battle between the two relegated clubs again went the way of the Leicestershire side who are early season favourites for the league title.

Ian Smith kicked a penalty after four minutes to open the scoring for Syston, and Bedford Athletic struggled to gain possession in the opening 20 minutes.

The next Syston points came via a try from loose head prop Aaron Dawson as he burrowed home from close range.

The conversion was missed and finally Bedford came back into the game on the half hour mark when a cross-field kick from James Mortimer was well caught by wing Reece Harry and he beat his man to touch down for 8-5.

A series of scrums and drives on the visitors’ line then led to a sin binning for David Simpson, and Athletic could not stop a five metre scrum drive – with the try awarded to Alex Edmunds. Smith added the conversion for a 15-5 half time lead.

From the moment that Liam Walsh intercepted the ball and raced up field at the start of the second half, Bedford had by far the better of the rest of the game.

Mortimer kicked a penalty on 52 minutes and man of the match Giuseppe Picanza led charge after charge deep into the hosts’ defence.

Several times the ball was grubber kicked through the home defence with no result, and a number of set piece opportunities were not capitalised upon.

Mortimer missed a further penalty after 62 minutes and, predictably, Bedford paid for their profligacy when Ian Smith led a rampaging charge eight minutes later.

Eventually the blindside was exploited and Dan Bower scored in the corner.

There was still time for the visitors to launch a last furious attack of their own, but once again composure and execution let them down as they lost control of the ball at the base of a ruck on Syston’s line.

The home side cleared the ball to secure the win.