A closely contested match went the way of Old Northamptonians as they defeated Bedford Athletic 24-13.
Outscoring their visitors by three tries to two, they made the most of Athletic’s reduction to 14 men for a 10-minute period in the second half to score 17 unanswered points.
Bedford made a bright start, controlling territory and possession, and took the lead in the 11th minute when a lineout catch and drive saw a try awarded to Luke Levitt.
From this point on they remained very much in the game but playing up the slope they struggled to get out of their own half.
From an accidental offside, Old Northamptonians took advantage when Rhys Hughes drove powerfully into the visitors’ defence and created the space for Alex Crofts to go over under the posts for a try converted by Tom Goodman.
Athletic still pressed up to the end of the half and finished in the lead with James Mortimer kicking a penalty on his 100th appearance for the 1st XV, putting Bedford 8-7 ahead.
When Charlie Darlow was sin binned for a tap tackle that the referee mis-interpreted as a spear tackle on 53 minutes, Tom Goodman kicked the penalty to return the home side to a 10-8 lead.
Minutes later, a quick tap from Lewis Barker saw him beat the retreating defence and put full-back Rory Seymour in for the try converted by Goodman.
Before Darlow returned, Athletic failed to put a clearance kick to touch and a mazy run from Fernley Simmonds bamboozled the visiting defence, allowing Crofts an easy score.
Darlow returned with the deficit at 24-8 and, galvanized by captain Paul Ryder on his 150th appearance for the club, Bedford Athletic sought a way back into the game.
With 10 minutes left to play, a cross-field kick from James Mortimer set up Stefan Hughes-Brand for an unconverted try.
Despite a further break from Andy Ince, Bedford Athletic could not find a way through for a third try to gain a losing bonus point and a composed home defence held out.
The result also puts an end to Bedford’s interest in the East Midlands Cup as this game doubled up as a cup quarter-final.
Next up for Athletic is a trip to Paviors in two weeks.