East Midlands Cup Final – Bedford Athletic 54 Peterborough 15

Bedford Athletic retained the Bombardier East Midlands Cup with a 54-15 victory over Peterborough.

A fierce contest in the first 50 minutes ebbed the way of the Bedford team as their greater strength and fitness told over the final half hour of the contest as they powered away to a win by seven tries to two.

Peterborough started in control of possession and having patiently gone through the phases broke through a ruck to set full back Joe Andresen clear for the opening try in the second minute of the match. Matt Newman converted. Bedford Athletic were not slow to respond and after Andy Ince had been held up over the line, Josh Cassell benefitted from a couple of half breaks to score under the posts, Steve Smith levelling matters at seven points apiece with the conversion. An even contest at this stage saw a further Newman penalty cancelled out by two from Smith before a series of bursts through the middle led by Nick Thomas for Bedford Athletic opened up space out wide for Smith to score a try in the 22nd minute. Peterborough responded by building momentum of their own as Bedford Athletic dropped a clearance kick and invited pressure. That momentum shifted just before the half hour mark as Sam Crooks of Peterborough was sin binned for dangerous play. As Bedford Athletic pressed their man advantage Charlie Darlow broke the line only for the move to seemingly die before play eventually went wide for prop Ben Thompson to crash over in the corner to extend the lead to 23-10. Another poor clearance from the kick off put the Bedford side back under pressure. This time Peterborough won a penalty but Newman’s kick hit the post. Thereafter Bedford Athletic finished the half the stronger with an Ince break setting in motion a move that would have led to a try but was pulled back for a forward pass, followed by a driving maul from an attacking lineout that Peterborough negated on the stroke of half time.

The start of the second half saw Peterborough re-energised as they turned over the kick off and swarmed forward. Setting up camp on the Bedford Athletic line they were repelled on several occasions but five minutes of pressure eventually paid off as prop Daniel O’Connell barged over for an unconverted try. Buoyed by their early success Peterborough surged forward again but this time the defence held them at bay. Slowly the tide was turned until taking their chance to move play back into their opponent’s half Bedford Athletic kicked a penalty through Leo Mortimer on 56 minutes. For the final half hour Bedford Athletic increasingly dominated play in both possession and territory. Stephen Woodhead earned territory with a searing break down the right wing, then Peterborough suffered another yellow card for Levan Stapleton for further dangerous play at a ruck, Woodhead broke once more and was turned over on the line, before finally on 66 minutes Bedford Athletic pressure paid off as Woodhead raced over for his side’s fourth try. Mortimer’s conversion extended the lead to 33-15 making Peterborough’s task look almost impossible. In truth there was only one side in the match in the final minutes, Steve Smith was next to score as he broke up a Peterborough move and having kicked ahead seemed to chase the ball around most of the Peterborough half before touching down on 69 minutes. Athletic then splintered their opponents scrum and from turnover ball Mortimer put Harry Sawford-Smith into space for the next try on 73 minutes. Finally a Freddie Boyce break was held up just over the line and from another advancing scrum Andy Ince picked up and dived over under the posts in the final minute, Leo Mortimer adding all four second half conversions for a convincing 54-15 victory.

With their future confirmed in the London & South East Premier league Bedford Athletic will look forward, confident they can build on their performances in the second half of this season.