A strong all round performance from Bedford Athletic saw them defeat second placed Derby by 42 points to 22.
It was a result that left the home team 15 points clear at the top of the Midlands One East table and their five tries were just reward for a performance that was clinical in attack and robust in defence.
Bedford Athletic dominated possession from the kick off and a sweeping move across the pitch was straightened up with a line break by Adam Harris before prop Ryan Taylor was on hand to carry three opponents over the line with him for the first try which Leo Mortimer converted in the second minute. Derby responded positively and had a try of their own on the eighth minute when from a midfield scrum, scrum half Josh Tizard and wing Harry Bigland combined neatly down the blindside for Bigland to score in the corner. The home side immediately took advantage of the opportunities that came their way and kicking with the wind Mortimer slotted penalties in the 11th and 14th minutes. The next try fell the way of Derby though when having kept the ball alive through a series of phases a grubber kick found full back Andrew Brown who was able to pick up and dive over the line. This narrowed the gap to 13-10 and if in the past this might have created doubts in the home side’s minds they now calmly moved play into the Derby half and applied the pressure. Hard driving from the forwards saw a lineout drive which was halted, however a scrum penalty was won and then a series of bursts through the defensive line saw prop Ben Thompson on hand to score the second try on 26 minutes, Mortimer again converting. Putnoe Wood was then hit with a vicious squall and this may have led to the Derby backline fumbling possession on the half hour mark as Bedford Athletic hassled and harassed them with Harry Sawford Smith eventually coming away with the ball and beating the cover defence for another converted try. The bonus point try arrived on 36 minutes when Stephen Woodhead spotted space behind the Derby defence and chased his own kick to score in the corner. This time Mortimer was off the mark with the conversion kick but he still ended the half on a positive note when his third penalty kick saw Bedford Athletic take a 35-10 half time lead.
Derby had the elements with them in the second half and they used the kick off to set about dominating territory. The home defence rose to the challenge with Josh Walker towering in the lineout stealing any number of visiting throws and the set defence working well. Derby should have scored when they overran a clear overlap allowing full back Woodhead to make a last ditch tackle to prevent a certain try. When their forwards did rumble over the line they were held up in in the in goal area. As a result it was a disappointment when Derby did eventually score. Walker won yet another visiting lineout but the tap back fell kindly for the visiting hooker Jack Bates and he touched down for the score on 56 minutes. Walker was soon to make amends as his aerial dominance continued to turn over possession and led to a prolonged period of Bedford Athletic pressure. Several scrum penalties were won, Josh Cassell crossed in the corner only to have a foot in touch and the home side were held up over the line. Bedford Athletic should have turned this pressure into points but the resulting drop out eventually let Derby set up camp again in the home 22. This time they executed a lineout drive and maul to perfection, Bedford Athletic pulling it down which resulted in a penalty try and a sin bin for Adam Harris. Trailing 35-22 with nine minutes left Derby sensed an opportunity but it was not to be. Stern defence continued to snuff out the Derby threat and once the ball was turned over Bedford Athletic attacked with speed to have the final say as quick hands saw the ball transferred to the wing where man of the match Ben Thompson was lurking for his second try. Mortimer slotted the conversion for 17 points on the day in total.
There is plenty of rugby left to play this season and many tricky fixtures for Bedford Athletic to face starting this Saturday in north Derbyshire at Dronfield with a 2.15pm kick off.