Opening day delight for Bedford Athletic as Borough get a mauling

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Bedford Athletic kick-started the new season in Midlands One East with a thumping 70-19 win at home to newly promoted Wellingborough.

An 11-try return was evidence of a performance that Athletic in control throughout, although there are still areas to work on and improve in the weeks ahead.

Only 49 seconds of the season had elapsed when Ben Johnson picked up pretty much where he left off a season ago with the opening try. The hard yards were made down the left flank by Sven Meiland but when the play was stretched right Johnson exploited the space well to glide over.

The lead was doubled in the second minute when Tommy Mills picked up a loose ball that bounced clear at a ruck on the halfway line to run 50m to score, James Mortimer adding the conversion for a 12-0 lead.

After a period of Wellingborough pressure, Mortimer re-established home superiority in the 14th minute with a penalty and, from the kick-off, Johnson went over again to stretch the lead to 20-0.

Meiland secured the bonus point in the 27th minute with his first try of the day, literally bouncing the full-back out of the way for a score converted by Mortimer.

Tom Dolemore added the fifth in the 29th minute and, before half-time, a wonderfully mazy run from 30 yards by hooker Liam Walsh saw him cross for the sixth try of the day, which Mortimer converted.

A spilt ball when running out of defence allowed Wellingborough an opportunity at the end of the half, and a cleverly crafted move by fly-half Peter Vickers saw Jez Brookes dot down for the visitors’ opening score. Vickers converted to make the score 39-7 at half time.

Athletic hit their visitors hard at the start of the second half, with first Mills and then a welcome try on his return to the side from Stephen Woodhead extending the lead to 53-7 – with Mortimer adding both conversions.

The hosts were then guilty of losing concentration as turnover ball allowed Wellingborough to break down the right wing, Paul Lambert crossing for a try converted by Vickers.

Although Mills scored his hat-trick try by dropping on to a loose ball, Athletic were turned over again from the kick-off and this time a strong run from Charlie Baker allowed Rob Owen to cross for Wellingborough’s third try of the day which went unconverted.

Leading 58-19, Bedford stiffened their resolve and further tries from Meiland and Johnson, with one converted by Mortimer, saw them home to the 70-19 victory.

On a high-scoring day in the league this result was only good enough for third place which is a stern reminder of the tougher tests to come, starting at home to Bugbrooke this Saturday with a 3pm kick-off at Putnoe Woods.