Bedford Athletic defeated league leaders Kettering in a hard fought encounter, emerging victorious by 16 points to 9.
Stern defence coupled with a dominant pack was sufficient to see the home side over the line, although their visitors competed throughout and never gave up in the belief that they could defend top spot.
Athletic secured their own kick-off and immediately seemed to have Kettering under intense pressure.
As was often the case when defending in their own 22, Kettering conceded a penalty rather than succumb to anything greater and James Mortimer converted to give Athletic an early 3-0 lead.
Kettering were not prepared to concede anything easily and replied on eight minutes with a penalty of their own through Joe Daniel.
The match continued with frequent incursions from the referee’s whistle as neither side was able to establish any dominance in their play.
The only scoring chances were a couple of long distance Daniel penalties, both of which drifted wide.
Daniel’s kicking was keeping Kettering on the front foot, however when the home side had the opportunity to break at pace they earned their second penalty of the day which Mortimer converted for a 6-3 lead.
Daniel replied in kind to tie the scores on the half hour mark, but crucially Athletic wrestled control of the game before the half-time interval.
First, Mortimer converted a kick for a 9-6 lead – in the process scoring his 900th point for the team – and then Stephen Woodhead had a further chance to extend the lead as he chased his own kick before being abruptly halted by the Kettering full-back.
The first score in the second half would be crucial and Kettering began on the attack, but the territory afforded to them by the boot of Daniel was negated by the resilience of the Bedford scrum.
A man of the match performance from tight head prop Tom Neale, ably abetted by hooker Liam Walsh and loose head Ryan Taylor, constantly disrupted Kettering on their own put in.
Eventually Kettering were harried into mistakes and Ben Johnson found space up the right wing before releasing Woodhead to score the only try of the day under the posts on 53 minutes which Mortimer converted for a 16-6 lead.
Daniel soon narrowed the gap to 16-9, but thereafter Athletic worked hard to keep Kettering contained in their own half and their defensive pressure began to wear the visitors down.
The departure of Kettering captain Tom Bridgeman with injury was a big blow to the visitors with 10 minutes to go, and their hosts should have scored twice more.
First, a drive from Paul Ryder ended with a knock-on over the line and then Nick Thomas was unable to keep hold of the ball when driving off a lineout.
However the defensive organisation kept Kettering at bay and the league leaders were toppled by the 16-9 scoreline.
Next week sees a break from league action, with Bedford Athletic’s next game away to Market Rasen in two Saturdays’ time.