Bedford Athletic thumped their close rivals Kettering by 75 points to 26 at Putnoe Wood.
In quite probably their biggest ever win in a competitive game against their East Midlands neighbours, the side ran in eleven tries and in truth failed to convert several other chances in a dominant performance.
Bedford Athletic probed from the kickoff and eventually prospered from a lineout catch and drive that saw Ryan Taylor touch down for the opening try in the fifth minute. Leo Mortimer converted but Kettering responded. A scrum penalty saw them kick for touch in turn and when this led to a further scrum five metres out they drove over the line, Brett Sturgess touching down for the score converted by Ollie Furniss. Three minutes later they were in the lead when a fortuitous bounce from a charge down led to a breakaway down the right-wing and the kick and chase was won by Kettering winger Sam Martindale, Furniss this time failing to convert.
Bedford Athletic’s response was calm and collected. They controlled possession and territory and scored next when wing Luke Denham fielded a clearance kick and then ran the ball back through the entire Kettering side for a try that Mortimer converted for a 14-12 lead in the 19th minute. Suddenly the home side went up a gear with four tries in ten minutes. Another driving maul that travelled 20 metres to the visitor’s line led to space for the backs to run in the third try and Stephen Woodhead obliged on 24 minutes. Then Josh Cassell caught the restart and instigated a searing passage of play with the ball travelling through multiple hands before Cassell himself finished the move for the bonus point try. Steve Smith was the next to benefit from sharp lines and straight running as he crossed for the fifth try on the half-hour mark and then from a quick tap penalty in their own 22, Bedford Athletic ran wide, captain James Wallace led the charge down the left-wing and Cassell was again on hand to take the scoring pass. Leo Mortimer converted all four tries for a 42-12 lead.
Kettering did score before halftime as a scrum and a series of pick and goes led to a try under the posts for Steve Fraher, converted by Furniss to make the score 42-19 at halftime.
The second half began with the home side continuing to look for gaps and space to exploit and they nearly scored twice more with the final pass just failing to go to hand on each occasion. They had their try in the 46th minute though as a series of drives from the forwards opened up the defence for Harry Sawford-Smith to glide through and score, Mortimer converting. A sustained period of Kettering pressure followed and although Bedford Athletic defended well in the end another tap penalty close to the posts saw the visitors drive over for a try to Steve Dysel, converted by Furniss. From the hour mark the home team picked up the pace again and a further four tries followed. The backs in particular were wreaking havoc with sharp breaks and good support lines. Harry Sawford-Smith put Luke Denham into space down the right wing for a try and then Steve Smith repeated the effort on the left wing to put Archie Duncan away for the score. Even Ryan Taylor’s sin binning for a deliberate knock on did not stall the momentum although by now Kettering were short of players as well due to a mounting injury toll. The final tries of the day saw hat tricks for both Josh Cassell and Luke Denham. In both cases the home side broke down Kettering attacks, turned the ball over and then attacked wide and with speed overwhelming an already splintered defensive line. Leo Mortimer was successful with all but one conversion for a personal haul of 20 points for his afternoon’s work.
The win puts Bedford Athletic 17 points clear of West Bridgford in second place as they travel to bottom of the table Lutterworth this Saturday with a 2.15pm kick off.