A strong performance saw Bedford Athletic victorious, in a 27 points to 10 victory at Kettering.
The visitors took control of the game early in the match and never let it go in a fiercely contested derby to remain in contention at the top of the Midlands One East table.
Bedford Athletic retrieved possession from the kick off and this led to an early spell of pressure. A well drilled Kettering defence were up to the task, and it took an early penalty kick from James Mortimer on six minutes to break the deadlock. From the restart Bedford Athletic immediately lost the ball and then gave away an offside penalty in midfield allowing Joe Daniel to level the scores two minutes later. The pressure from the away side did not let up and wave after wave of Bedford attacks crashed upon the Kettering defence. Although initially repelled, the amount of defensive work was nonetheless tiring for the home side and in the 23rd minute Bedford Athletic finally had their reward when straight running from Josh Cassell prised open the defence allowing Stephen Woodhead to take the scoring pass, Mortimer converting for a 10-0 lead. With the visitors picking apart the Kettering lineout and as a result dominating territory and possession, on the half hour mark a further penalty extended the lead to 13-3 and was the prelude to a near perfect spell of rugby from the visiting side. The restart was secured, the forwards drove hard into the guts of the Kettering defence and once they had them in retreat, the ball was spun down the backline for Woodhead to scorch away down the right wing, outsprint the defence and cross for the try, Mortimer converting. From the restart it was almost a carbon copy effort, except on this occasion the attack came down the left wing and once in space it was Josh Cassell who outstripped the cover for the third try. Mortimer’s conversion pushed the score out to 27-3 and Bedford Athletic could have had a fourth try before halftime, Cassell being pulled back for a forward pass.
A sloppy start to the second half cost Bedford Athletic territory and possession, with a loose kick and a lost lineout allowing Kettering to apply pressure in the Athletic 22. A manful rearguard action kept the home side at bay and led by charging runs from prop John Clarke (who had much the better of his opposing ex-premiership prop Brett Sturgess in both the tight and open play), Andy Ince and the direct running in the centres of David Simpson, Bedford Athletic carried play deep into their opponents half. Here they remained for the rest of the third quarter and really should have scored again when Cassell had a try ruled out for a double movement, and Archie Duncan threw the ball at rather than to Cassell with the tryline at his mercy. Entering the final quarter, Kettering had little left to play for but pride but eventually they came back at Athletic with a forward based pick and drive game, with the intention of eventually wearing the visiting side down. However the defence was up to the task, Dan Martin was held up over the line and the collapse of the Kettering lineout meant that any penalties they did win had to be taken as tap and go opportunities. Finally in the last ten minutes Bruce Keir did crash over for a consolation score and although Daniel kicked a quick conversion, Bedford Athletic maintained their physicality in defence and saw out the final minutes to preserve their lead and secure a comfortable victory.
The result keeps Bedford Athletic in second place in the league, trailing leaders Syston by four points and with ten games to go well positioned to feature in the challenge for promotion at the end of the season. Leighton Buzzard are the next visitors to Putnoe Wood on Saturday with Wooden Spoon the charitable cause in a match which kicks off at 2.15pm.