Bedford Athletic gained two bonus points in a narrow 37-33 defeat at Shelford, but still languish towards the bottom of Regional South East Division One.
In the proverbial game of two halves the visitors turned around a 34-0 deficit to run the home side close in the second half although they could not fashion a winning score in the closing stages.
A very poor first half hour for the visitors began in the first minute as from the kick off Shelford scored, with winger Louie Tang dotting down for the opening try, converted by Lewis Cracknell.
The early stages were dominated by the hosts as once again Bedford Athletic struggled to bring the necessary intensity and accuracy to an away performance, and the Shelford lead was extended by a try from second row Alex Hales in the seventh minute and consolidated by penalties from Cracknell for a 20-0 lead.
With Bedford Athletic offering little in response and prone to error in defence, Shelford had secured the try bonus point in the first half hour from hooker, Miles Huppatz and with the converted bonus point try from Cracknell himself, the 34-0 lead was established.
With little to lose Bedford Athletic made changes. Leo Mortimer came off the bench to slot in at fly half, Felix Mallalieu moved to inside centre and the visitors finally found a kicking game to start giving them territory.
This new found purpose paid off before half time with a forwards try touched down by Lewis Sharp and converted by Mortimer to put the side on the scoreboard trailing 34-7 at half time.
Second half comeback falls short
The change at the start of the second half could not have been more marked and within six minutes Bedford Athletic were back in the game.
First it was Oli Petrides who touched down for the try and minutes later Leo Mortimer made a rare dash for the line, his conversion of his own try bringing up his 1,000th point for the first XV in his 100th game for the side.
Sensing the Bedford Athletic resurgence, Shelford kicked three points through the boot of Cracknell but this proved to be their only points of the second half as Bedford Athletic stormed back into the game led largely by the back row trio of Jacob Wells, Jake Foster and Casey George.
It was Foster who crossed for the bonus point try on 55 minutes and the increasing ascendancy of the visiting pack was emphasized with a try to hooker Charlie Darlow on 65 minutes, both converted by Mortimer.
There was enough time left for further chances to win the match to come and go; a couple of attacking line outs were off target and one break in particular just needed the final pass making but instead the ball was carried into contact and the chance was lost.
Nevertheless the come back showed what Bedford Athletic are capable of in this league if they maintain a consistent level of performance, but Shelford held on for a 37-33 victory to jump to third, while the Ath remain in danger in ninth.
With half of the league season now played, Bedford Athletic are still closer to the bottom of the table than the top and that makes home wins vital; the next opportunity coming against Letchworth this Saturday at Putnoe Woods with a 3pm kick off.
Words by Jeremy Tyrrell