West Bridgford 42 Bedford Athletic 55

Bedford Athletic completed their title-winning season with a 55-42 victory at West Bridgford.

Undaunted by a trip to the second place team who were unbeaten in nine matches, the visitors instead extended their own winning sequence to 15 to finish the league season with just one defeat in 24 matches.

With the wind against them and despite earning two early defensive penalties, Bedford Athletic could not exit their own half and West Bridgford made their third attack count with a penalty kicked by Calum Gunn in the tenth minute. Bedford Athletic immediately responded with a try from their first attack, Jake Foster bursting through with a high tackle in the act of scoring resulting in a penalty try. Once again though the visitors couldn’t clear their lines from a defensive penalty, West Bridgford ran the ball back hard and Josh Pearson scored the hosts first try. Bedford Athletic continued to probe and it was Josh Cassell who broke through for the second try on 21 minutes. Again West Bridgford responded and a quick tap penalty saw them knife through the visiting defence for a second try this one converted by Gunn for a 15-12 lead. Bedford Athletic now began to work themselves into the game starting to dominate possession and territory. Going through multiple phases they eventually found a gap at the side of a ruck and Cassell darted through for his second try, Leo Mortimer converting. By contrast the fourth and bonus point try was started deep in their own half, Harry Sawford-Smith making the initial break and Archie Duncan finishing the move at the other end of the pitch. Bedford Athletic led 24-15 at half time.

West Bridgford had the first attack of the second half but when they dropped the ball Duncan picked up and ran 80 metres for his second try, Mortimer converting before being replaced by Felix Mallalieu. Duncan was once again to the fore for the next try beating men in the outside channels following a line break by Sawford-Smith but this time it was Stephen Woodhead who was on hand to score, Mallalieu converting. By the time the hour mark was reached Bedford Athletic had had six attacks inside the home 22 and scored six tries. The seventh was unsuccessful as a line out drive and subsequent maul was penalised just short of the line. West Bridgford were already working their way back into the game, their heavy runners causing damage around the rucks. Prop forward Steven Corban had added a third try on 56 minutes and when Bedford Athletic were forced into a goal line drop out, the home side were able to run the ball back with pace to score the bonus point try on 62 minutes. Both tries were converted by Gunn and when he added a penalty on 68 minutes following Josh Walker’s sin binning for persistent infringements the tide seemed to have turned in West Bridgford’s favour trailing just 38-32. The champions were having none of that. A quick tap penalty from Ryan Taylor saw the forwards drive with Erran Singh-Soomal eventually crossing the line. Mallalieu was starting to pull the tiring home side apart and he set up wing Luke Denham to run round the defence to score and then following another line break he sold an outrageous dummy to put Stephen Woodhead clear for the ninth and final try, Mallalieu converting the last of these to take the score to 55. There was time for two late consolation tries for West Bridgford in the final minutes but a winning margin of nine tries to six was a fair reflection of the visitor’s efforts.

Bedford Athletic complete their league campaign which they dominated from start to finish and in dropping only 8 points throughout the season were worthy champions. They complete the season with the Bedfordshire Cup Final at home to Leighton Buzzard on Saturday with a 3pm kick off.