Thursday saw one of the most hotly anticipated games of last week as Bedford travelled to Oakham searching for their third win in a row, whilst their hosts were looking mighty impressive themselves, despite losing one of their opening two games.
With strong wins against Oundle and Uppingham, Bedford knew that a win here would really get them noticed by rival sides and give them an opportunity to create a memorable season.
Oakham meanwhile were fresh off the back of a huge win over Nottingham High and were in no mood to slow down. This side have put a lot of pressure on themselves to emulate some of the star-studded sides of the past, and they knew this was a strong test of those credentials.
Bedfordâ€™s Timothy Graham reports:
The game started brightly; with Bedford enjoying the majority of the early possession, taking a 3-0 lead with a penalty from the boot of Tim Graham.
Bedford continued to camp deep in the Oakham half and would have converted chances into points, had it not been for a number of basic errors and a very resilient Oakham defence. However, with about 15 minutes gone, Bedford crossed over in the corner to complete a well worked try.
A touchdown from Liam Fitt followed two huge drives from consecutive line-outs, starting on the Oakham 10-metre line. Tim Graham added the extras, taking Bedford to a 17-0 with about 25 minutes gone.
However Oakham amassed some prolonged pressure for themselves late in the 1st half, testing the Bedford defence with some hard lines. The boys in red held strong and kept the hosts out for the remainder of the first half.
After the break, the Bedford boys were back with ball in hand and Ben Nethersole crossed over to take Bedford to a 22-0 lead. A spirited Oakham once again showed their fight as they dug deep to put Bedford on the back foot, with two long-range penalties to show for their efforts, pegging the deficit back to 22-6.
The hosts continued to apply the pressure as time was slowly running out, and the Oakham full-back crossed over, to complete a fine solo try. This was the final score however; as Bedford saw off a final attack, to finish with a 22-11 win.
There were plenty of errors in both attack and defence on both sides, and Bedford will need to eradicate these, with arguably their toughest week of the calendar, up against Tonbridge and Harrow within five days.
Final Score â€“ 22-11
Neither side was particularly pleased with their performance after the game, with Oakham once again bemoaning their sluggish starts to games, while Bedford were disappointed to have let Oakham back into the game after starting so strongly and giving themselves the opportunity for a big score.
For both sides though, there are huge positives to take from this game. Oakham can be delighted with the way they fought back, the leadership from captain Ruaraidh Jackson was quite outstanding and his try only served to underline the point.
His determination that Oakham were not to be beaten out of this game filtered through to the whole team, and his rousing talk at half time visibly lifted the team.
Openside Francis Tufail-Smith must also be praised, his tenacity at the breakdown and outrageously high tackle count kept Oakham in the game for long periods of the first half and he is surely going to be one of their stars of the season.
Bedford meanwhile are looking formidable. They may not have been happy with their performance, but frankly that should strike fear into every side they face this season. They may not have been at their best for large periods of this game, but their supreme defensive organisation gives them the greatest of safety nets.
Their ability to judge when a ball is lost and to spread their number in defence means that they almost never look stretched, it is hard to remember Oakham creating a single overlap in the game despite a lot of promising play.
On the rare occasions that they do have a defensive lapse, full back ben Nethersole is as brave as they come. He put in what was a match defining tackle on Oakhamâ€™s Oliver Allman, the Oakham star burst through towards the end, just as his side were making a comeback. Nethersole injured himself stopping him, but almost certainly saved his team.
It is the back row that makes the real difference for Bedford though, their ability to get involved in attack in the outside channels is almost unparalleled in the school game, and that ability to combine power and skill is almost unplayable.
Bedford face Tonbridge today in what could well be the making or breaking of their season, to read our preview, please follow this link.