Peterborough Lions 19 Bedford Athletic 30

Bedford Athletic claimed the Bombardier East Midlands Cup with a 30-19 victory over Peterborough Lions.

Devastating attack in the first half combined with ferocious defence in the second proved a winning combination as two teams who had both achieved promotion from their respective leagues this season went head to head for a second year in a row.

Bedford Athletic took the lead with eighty seconds played. Lions kicked clear from their own 22 and fly half James Mortimer spotted they were short on the blind side and rifled a pass out to Josh Cassell who beat the defence and crossed for the opening try and a 5-0 lead. Minutes later Peterborough Lions broke clear down the right wing and it took a fine covering tackle from Stephen Woodhead to halt wing Ashley Hill, the Bedford side ultimately clearing the danger and earning a penalty that Mortimer kicked for an 8-0 lead on twelve minutes. Bedford Athletic continued to rebuff everything that Lions threw at them and their capacity to break at pace was demonstrated in the 18th minute when a turnover saw the ball spun wide to Cassell who charged up and then infield scattering the Lions defence before feeding the ball to his opposite wing Woodhead who crossed for his first try of the day. Mortimer’s conversion made it 15-0. When another Lions attack was scythed down Bedford Athletic returned play with interest and another Mortimer penalty extended the lead still further. On the half hour a penalty was drilled to touch and Bedford Athletic set the platform from a 5 metre lineout. The forwards drove hard and sucked in the defence before the ball was spun wide for Woodhead to once again profit on the right wing for yet another try and a 23-0 lead. This finally sparked Lions into life. Centre Semisi Tei wove his way through the Bedford defence almost without a hand being laid on him and Sam Crooks was in support for their opening try converted by Nico Defeo on 35 minutes. Lions kept the pressure up at the end of the half and a further pacy attack was snuffed out illegally. From the penalty Lions drove the lineout and hooker Jack Lewis emerged for a score that narrowed Bedford Athletics’ lead to 23-12 at half time.

Bedford Athletic attacked from the start of the second half and Lions No.8 Tom Gulland was soon in the sin bin for a penalty conceded metres from his own line. Strong Lions defence kept Bedford Athletic at bay and the game quickly broke up into a fast and loose affair with gaps all over the pitch. Play went from end to end and it was Lions who finished this period on top as Nico Defeo scored and converted to leave the Bedford Athletic advantage at 23-19. The kick off was regathered and immediately Bedford Athletic had a try of their own as Harry Sawford-Smith crossed and Mortimer converted to stretch the lead back to 30-19. The pace and physicality of the encounter did not cease and just when Athletic looked to control matters a kick was charged down, an offside penalty conceded at the next break down and they were back under pressure. It took a try if not match saving tackle from Charlie Darlow on 58 minutes to shift the momentum as he flipped the Lions player on his back when over the try line. The Bedford pack obliterated their opponents at the next scrum and the tone was set for a rearguard action in the final quarter of an hour. Andy Ince was sin binned with 12 minutes left to play and Bedford Athletic found themselves defending deep in their own half. However the last tackle was never missed, the breakdown never abandoned and the strong Lions runners never allowed to escape as the clock increasingly became the friend of the side from the lower league. Eventually Lions ran out of ideas, out of steam and out of time and Bedford Athletic held on for a famous win.

The victory sees Bedford Athletic secure a league and cup double to add to the Bedfordshire Cup and East Midlands 2nd XV league titles already secured. The performance will give the side every confidence of being a competitive threat when they advance to the league above most likely in the London & South East Premier Division next season.