Bedford Athletic lost their East Midlands derby by 28 points to 24 to Peterborough Lions.
A courageous second half resurgence was nearly enough to overcome a weak first half performance but despite sharing eight tries the Bedford Athletic team were once again left to rue what might have been as has often been the case in recent weeks.
A strong start from the home side should have produced a score but the Lions held out well and raised the early siege. From a penalty Lions kicked to touch and Athletic stood off the resulting rolling maul from the lineout allowing it to travel 30 metres before Nick Thomas collapsed it and conceded both a penalty try and a yellow card. Will Carrington converting the try. The initial response from the home side was positive as Charlie Darlow and Stephen Woodhead found space down the right wing and Woodhead’s kick ahead was kicked dead by the covering defence. Bedford Athletic won a free kick from the 5 metre scrum and spread the ball wide for Darlow to score in the far corner, James Mortimer converting to tie the scores at 7-all. The home team then began to retreat from the physical contest and when Ryan Taylor gave away a needless penalty at a ruck and conceded a further 10 metres for throwing the ball away it was an invitation to Lions to repeat their catch and drive routine, with Ben Howard this time powering over for the score. Carrington converted and Peterborough Lions were set to dominate the remainder of the half. Jack Lewis soon crossed from close range for their third try and half backs Tom Dougherty and Nico DeFeo combined well on the stroke of half time to rip the home defence apart and with Carrington’s conversions increase the lead to 28-7.
The second half was dominated almost in its entirety by Bedford Athletic. The first chance came on 45 minutes when Woodhead broke the line and fed Darlow for a try that Mortimer failed to convert but which did offer the home side a lifeline at 28-12. Lions were beginning to get fractious and sloppy and from a quick lineout on 53 minutes Bedford Athletic spread the play down their backline for Josh Cassell to cross in the corner and narrow the gap to 28-17. Further Bedford Athletic pressure saw fly half DeFeo sin binned and Athletic nearly scored in response when Cassell was held up over the line from the next phase of play. Further ill-discipline cost Lions as Darren Fox was sin binned for too many attempts to assist the referee in officiating the game on 61 minutes and Bedford Athletic finally broke through for their bonus point try minutes later. John Clarke picked the ball out of a ruck and charged for the line and when play was recycled Andy Ince eventually crashed over. James Mortimer converted to narrow the gap to 28-24 on 66 minutes. Chances still came for the home side. A chip ahead when Steve Smith was through with only the full back to beat deserved more than landing in the full back’s hands and in the final stages Athletic through everything they had into creating a winning score. A final lineout catch and drive metres from the line was repelled by Lions and they held on for the victory.
Two bonus points were again a dis-spiriting return in the light of their determined comeback and Bedford Athletic will be pleased that no bonus points will feature in their next encounter which is a trip to Stockwood Park on Friday evening for a Bedfordshire Cup Semi Final.