Bedford Athletic returned to the top of the Midlands One East table with a 48-0 win at Northampton Old Scouts.
In a match they dominated throughout, a try hat trick from Stephen Woodhead was the highlight of a day in which they also passed 1,000 league points for the season and advanced to the final of the East Midlands Cup.
Bedford Athletic played the first half at a high intensity that the home side could not cope with. The first try arrived after just two minutes with a slick running move across the face of the home defence ending up with Josh Cassell who charged down the left wing bumping off any would be tacklers to score. The second try arrived two minutes later on the right wing and it was Stephen Woodhead who out sprinted the cover for the try. Leading 10-0 Bedford Athletic then had to put in a defensive shift as the concession of several penalties forced them back to their own line. Several line out catch and drives were halted and eventually a hard won turnover from John Clarke allowed the visitors to alleviate the pressure and return to the attack. This they did with aplomb, and another running move allowed Harry Sawford-Smith to find space to cross for the third try on 18 minutes. The try bonus point was secured five minutes later when a combination of backs and forwards ended with prop Josh McCann running a fine line and finding hooker Liam Walsh on his shoulder to crash over for the try. James Mortimer converted the third and fourth try for a 24-0 lead and he also converted the fifth when Charlie Darlow was the beneficiary of some strong running lines that ushered him to the line in the 31st minute. Leading 31-0 Bedford Athletic did have to defend in the minutes before half time but despite the home side once again having several driving mauls from line out catch and drives they finished with them held up over the line and the lead was preserved.
The pace slowed dramatically in the second half as a high penalty count led to a very stop-start match and Bedford Athletic struggled to find the accuracy of the first period. They continued to dominate and spent ten minutes probing for a way over the home line but stout defence held them at bay and the momentum was eventually reversed. When Northampton Old Scouts did manage an attack it was quickly snuffed out with try scoring chances being few and far between for the home side. An anxiousness to get the scoreboard ticking again probably contributed to a yellow card for Charlie Darlow in the 57th minute for a trip when in an attacking position, but even with a man deficit Bedford Athletic found a way to score next. David Simpson gave the side impetus with some direct running in midfield, and when James Mortimer tried to snipe through a gap he was halted with a high tackle. The penalty was kicked to touch and two drives were held up over the line, neither James Wallace nor Ben Middleton managing to touch down. The third drive was short as well but this time the ball was spread down the back line and Woodhead benefitted for his second try on 65 minutes. Unfortunately the discipline in the game now degenerated with several high tackles from the home side leading to penalties for the visitors. This led to further pressure and when the forwards were again frustrated by the home defence close to the ruck it was the wide play of the backs that produced the score with Woodhead completing his hat trick. Mortimer converted for a 43-0 lead on 73 minutes. The final score came following a spear tackle in which Jordan Dolman and Richard Bussey dumped Bedford Athletic captain Rob Watkins on his head but escaped with a warning. From the penalty, line out catch and drive, the forwards drove to the line and scrum half Tom Orton sniped over for the final try.
With the win counting in the cup as well, the club can look forward to an East Midlands Cup Final at Goldington Road at the end of the season as well as celebrating a return to the top of the league. That came courtesy of an Old Northamptonians victory over Syston and Bedford Athletic will therefore be well aware of the threat Old Northamptonians pose as the next visitors to Putnoe Wood on 3rd March with a 3pm kick off.