A convincing victory but a mediocre performance from Bedford Athletic as they ran out 59-22 winners at home to Belgrave.
Despite having the try bonus point in the bag by the 18th minute, lapses in concentration and a high error rate prevented the home side from properly imposing themselves on the encounter as they would have liked.
Within the first minute Adam Harris stepped through the middle of the ruck and with the defensive line broken it was just a matter of drawing the last man with Jake Foster the beneficiary for the first try in the opening seconds. Leo Mortimer converted and was on target five minutes later when the home side once more stretched the visiting defence with Harry Sawford-Smith scoring his 50th try for the first XV. And when Josh Cassell galloped through a gaping hole on the right wing following through on Stephen Woodhead’s pacy counter-attack, Bedford Athletic were 21-0 up with just eleven minutes played. The visitors did show they carried a threat close to the home side’s line and when Bedford Athletic failed to properly clear the kick off, a string of penalties led to a driving line out which Belgrave marched over the line for a try to Dave Weston. The bonus point try arrived for Bedford Athletic when Steve Smith handed off the defence to run 40 metres to the line, Mortimer keeping up a 100% kicking record for a 28-5 lead. However the early scores led to a degree of complacency from the home side. A charged down grubber kick allowed centre Joe Pollard to escape for a try and then a series of cheap penalties once again saw Belgrave threatening close to the line. A misthrown line out worked to their advantage when a loose ball bounced kindly for second row Louis Summers to pick up and score. Bedford Athletic did score next with a second try of the day for Jake Foster but more significantly they then drove back a close range visiting line out drive to steady matters and take a 35-17 lead into half time.
Critically Bedford Athletic dominated possession and territory at the start of the second half and a series of penalties close to the Belgrave line eventually saw Adam Harris dive over in the corner for the sixth try of the day. When the home side retained possession for any length of time they did look more threatening and a rather more successful grubber kick created confusion in the visiting defence and Woodhead benefitted to score the first of his two tries, Mortimer converting for a 47-17 lead on 54 minutes. Once again though Bedford Athletic failed to clear the kick off and this led to concerted pressure on the home line. As the penalties mounted Belgrave drove closer and although some sterling defence did keep them out for a time eventually they were able to drive over from a 5 metre scrum touched down by no.8 Tom Knifton. Having conceded some sloppy tries and taken their foot off the pace of the match more often than they would have liked, Bedford Athletic did take their chances toward the end of the game to close the match out. Both of the last two tries came from multiple phases of play breaking down the visiting defence and an appreciation of space. Firstly Woodhead crossed for his second try of the day and then Steve Smith completed the scoring with the ninth try. Mortimer kicked seven conversions out of nine.
Bedford Athletic will need to find a much higher level of execution and consistency when they visit Derby on Saturday with a 3pm kick off.