A commanding performance from Bedford Athletic saw them secure the Midlands One East title with a 51 points to 14 win at Peterborough.
In a match in which they were fully dominant in all areas of play by the end, they scored 7 tries to their hosts 2 to secure the league with three games to play.
It was Peterborough who had the first attack of the afternoon breaking down the right-wing and with their initial thrust halted, play was switched to the left where the attack was eventually held up over the line. This worked in Bedford Athletic’s favour as the goal line drop out carried the length of the pitch given the force of the wind and when Peterborough tried to return the kick they conceded an offside penalty which Leo Mortimer converted for a 3-0 lead.
Peterborough then won a series of penalties and inched closer to their visitor’s line before being turned over 5 metres out. The clearing penalty travelled deep into the home half, the lineout was won and the visiting forwards drove, which opened space for Charlie Darlow to break the line, find Harry Sawford-Smith in support and when he was brought down, Lewis Sharp was on hand to score the try. Mortimer’s conversion made it 10-0 in the 17th minute.
Peterborough responded with a penalty, lineout win and drive of their own and with the defence sucked in, they spun the ball wide to the opposite wing where Charles Jacobs scored the try, Byron Van Uden converting. However, they were penalised straight from the kick-off and Mortimer slotted the penalty for a 13-7 lead on 23 minutes. In difficult conditions with a strong wind, the game descended for a time into a morass of errors and missed opportunities typified by Sharp’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on and Van Uden’s wayward crossfield kick that landed behind his own players.
The half ended though in Bedford Athletic’s favour as Darlow won a turnover, the ball was quickly spread to the right-wing and Luke Denham sprinted clear for a try converted by Mortimer for a 20 points to 7 half time lead.
Bedford Athletic rang the changes at half time with Ben Thompson already on to shore up the scrummage, Stephen Woodhead moved into scrum-half, captain James Wallace joined the back row and Steve Smith reformed his partnership with Harry Sawford-Smith in the centres. There was an immediate lift in the pace and purpose of their efforts and although their initial attacks ended in turnover penalties for holding onto the ball, they soon penetrated deep into their host’s half. Smith and Sawford-Smith provided the breaks and when Peterborough suffered their own sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on, from the following scrum Woodhead released Darlow through a gap for the third try.
The pressure kept coming as the forwards continued to bear down on their opponents and when Steve Smith rescued a move from an attacking scrum that appeared to have gone to ground, he strode through the whole Peterborough side for the bonus point try on 66 minutes. Gaps were appearing at regular intervals now, Luke Denham sped through the next one that opened up and off loaded to Josh Cassell who had a clear run to the line. Mortimer maintained a flawless kicking record for a 41-7 lead.
Peterborough briefly mounted some resistance when No.8 Jonathan Hamilton picked up from the base of a scrum and got Jacobs through a gap for his second try, once again converted by Van Uden, but it was Bedford Athletic who finished the day in style. They continued to romp through the home defence, Sawford-Smith perfectly executing a kick ahead for a try in the left corner and then Cassell benefited from a well timed off load for the seventh try of the day, neither try being converted but the 50 point mark was reached nonetheless.
So Bedford Athletic claimed the league title in style and now with three games left in the season will look to finish the campaign firstly by staying unbeaten at home starting with the game against Peterborough Lions at Putnoe Woods on Saturday 26th March kick off 3.00pm.