Bedford Athletic went down 27-11 to Peterborough Lions in the 2017 Bombardier East Midlands Cup Final.
An energetic and committed display was not quite enough as the superior defence and accuracy in attack of their rivals saw them home with a couple of late tries that eventually led to a slightly flattering scoreline.
Bedford Athletic started with energy and verve and dominated the opening quarter playing some of their finest attacking rugby of the season both in terms of structure and accuracy. This led to the opening try on ten minutes when from a penalty Bedford Athletic executed a lineout catch and drive opportunity to perfection as Josh McCann touched down to give them a 5-0 lead. It took Peterborough Lions until the 17th minute to arrive in the Bedford Athletic 22 and even then they were repelled when a Tom Lewis break resulted in turnover ball for the Bedford side. Nevertheless Will Carrington kicked their first penalty of the day on 23 minutes and when Sam Crooks was sin binned on 26 minutes as the penalty count mounted against them, Lions redoubled their efforts to take back the initiative. This was rewarded on the half hour mark as a series of Lions five metre scrums resulted in penalties for the Peterborough side and at the fourth time of asking the referee awarded the penalty try. Will Carrington converted for a 10-5 lead. Bedford Athletic did have a long range penalty attempt before halftime but this was missed so the score remained at 10-5 to the Peterborough side.
An early attack from Lions on the second half saw Bedford Athletic fumble the ball in defence and Lions capitalised, first with a penalty which saw Stuart Livesey sin binned and then with a line out catch and drive of their own for hooker Jack Lewis to cross and score. Bedford Athletic were undaunted by the ten point deficit and it was they who began to dominate the game keeping play firmly pinned in the Peterborough half. The Peterborough Lions defence was strong and persistant and Bedford Athletic were mainly restricted to penalty chances. James Mortimer slotted a penalty in the 46th minute however missed penalties in the 53rd and 55th minutes did not help their cause with James Hawken by now taking over the kicking duties. Jack Lewis was then sin binned for Lions and when Hawken converted his second attempt in the 68th minute it looked like Bedford Athletic might have been able to summon a comeback at 15-11 down but in the end the pendulum swung the other way. Dean Elmore crashed through the defence four minutes later to set up the position from which scrum half Tom Dougherty was able to snipe over the line, Carrington’s conversion extending the lead to 22-11. Bedford Athletic were now fully committed to attack and an excellent handling move nearly saw them escape down the right wing however the final pass was fumbled. From the scrum Lions attacked and Adrian Enright scored the final try in the corner which went unconverted for the 27-11 victory.
A match in which relegated Bedford Athletic matched their 4th place opponents for long periods but eventually came up short against a stifling defence and on occasion their own inaccuracies was closer than the final scoreline suggests. It nevertheless demonstrates why the team will need to regroup and refocus to fight their way back to the Level 5 league they are leaving behind but that their style of rugby shows that they deserve to participate in.