The Blues began the year on a low note, being well beaten by a sharper, more intent and better-prepared side in this first game of 2013.
Matlock are one of the form teams in Midlands One East, and Kettering's lack of preparation for this game - not helped by a pre-Christmas cancellation - was badly exposed in the first quarter, when the visitors opened up an 18-point lead. In truth, the margin could have been even greater because the referee failed to award a penalty try to Matlock after they were denied by a blatant late tackle. The often over-vociferous and intimidating behaviour of some of the Matlock players didn't do their team any favours.
Kettering hauled themselves off the canvas to dominate much of the next 40 minutes, but solid defence and poor decision-making prevented them closing the gap, other than a well-worked try for wing Luca Rodger, which was converted by Joe Daniel.
There were some plus points for Kettering. Kye Beasley, a Navy man playing his first game for the Blues for a number of years, was outstanding at tighthead, while 17-year-old openside Jamie Manley also had cause to be well satisfied with his efforts.
But there was no happy ending for Kettering as the final 15 minutes saw Matlock wrap up a conclusive win with two further tries, the latter a fine solo effort by their ever-dangerous left-wing. "We got what we deserved," said Kettering's director of rugby Doug Bridgeman. "I was very disappointed by our lack of response to training. We need to learn fast from this experience as we enter a spell of three further games against the top sides in the league."
Another defeat for Kettering - but one from which they can take great heart, having pushed the new Midlands One East leaders all the way at Putnoe Woods.
The Blues began brightly and immediately put Bedford under pressure. Fly-half Joe Daniel landed a penalty for a 3-0 lead, but a lack of concentration allowed Bedford to grab possession at the restart and pin Kettering in their own 22. The ball was recycled and Bedford ran in a try that was converted.
The home side took a grip on the game but a storming run by No 8 Rory Keir changed the momentum as Kettering began to create chances. Wing Luca Roger and full-back James Taylor were put clear out wide but were stopped short by covering tackles. Next, prop Josh Cox was unable to hold on to a charged-down kick with the try-line beckoning and Daniel missed a penalty, leaving Kettering 10-3 adrift at half-time.
It was Bedford who started the stronger in the second half, but resolute defence and good discipline restricted them to a drop-goal. Almost immediately, however, Bedford scored a second try after a speculative kick was gathered by their centre just inside the Kettering half and he wriggled out of four tackles to run in a converted try.
Trailing 20-3, Kettering raised their intensity and pinned Bedford back in their 22. Flankers Chris Chapman and Jamie Manley were outstanding as the Blues piled on the pressure, resulting in a yellow card for the Bedford hooker for killing the ball. From the resulting scrum, Keir's initial run to the line was finished off smartly by centre Alex Smit, who scored at the foot of the posts. Daniel converted (10-20).
Kettering finished strongly but were unable to convert their possession into scoring opportunities. Chapman and hooker Tom Scarr made great breaks but Bedford defended well; a couple of knock-ons also halted Kettering's progression and some loose kicking unnecessarily gifted Bedford possession, but director of rugby Doug Bridgeman was a satisfied man.
"We were extremely unlucky not to come away with something," he said. "Bedford have been scoring a lot of tries but we only lost two tries to one. Our work-rate, defence and scrum was much improved but for a couple of poor decisions - running kickable penalties - we could have got a well-deserved bonus point."