MK Wolves followed up their strong showing in the East RL Shield final on Saturday with their first league win of the season on Wednesday night – and it came 42-30 against high-flying local rivals Bedford Tigers.
In evening temperatures nudging the 30s at Emerson Valley, the game was always going to be a fiery affair – and so it proved as Wolves began in blistering form.
Capitalising on some early mistakes from Bedford, the hosts surged into an early 12-0 lead courtesy of tries from hooker Oli Fountain and second row Kieran Perry.
Tigers then fought their way back into the game, bringing the scores level. But a much improved Wolves side, playing some superb rugby, outclassed their vastly more experienced rivals in the first half as stand-off Marcus Stock, loose forward Scott Aspinall and Oli Fountain all scored to give Wolves a commanding 30-12 lead at the break.
A rejuvenated Bedford side started the second half much as Wolves had finished the first, running in three unanswered tries to level the scores at 30-30.
The fear amongst the burgeoning Wolves support must have been that, with the switch in momentum to the visitors, their superior experience would be MK’s undoing.
But with the game finely balanced, Fountain settled the Wolves nerves when he received the ball 30 metres from the line and neatly avoided two Bedford tackles with some trademark sidesteps to complete his hat-trick and give MK a 36-30 lead.
Refusing to lie down, and knowing they were only a converted try behind, Bedford fought back – repeatedly attacking the MK line, forcing Wolves into some desperate try-line defence. But they stood firm and kept Bedford at bay.
For a sport which allows six tackles per set, one notable period in the latter stages of the second half saw MK make a remarkable 18 repeated try-line tackles as Wolves stood shoulder to shoulder and defended like Spartans.
Keen to push the difference to more than one score, MK attempted a drop-goal which sailed wide, and the game was only settled with moments to play when Fountain crossed for his fourth try of the game.
This was perhaps the best Wolves performance to date – a huge victory over one of the strongest and most established sides in the East Premier League table.
Wolves head coach Abe Kerr said: “We picked up from where we left off at the weekend, where we put in a very strong second half display in the Shield final.
“As with the recent victory over Cambridge in the Shield semi final, we showed tremendous character when faced with a comeback.
“Despite conceding a number of early second half tries, we regrouped and finished the match very strongly to win.”
Wolves are next in action this Saturday against league leaders and recent East RL Cup winners North Herts Crusaders at Letchworth, before playing Bedford Tigers away next Wednesday evening.