Ilkeston 29 Bedford Athletic 22
Bedford Athletic pushed Ilkeston all the way but in the end could not avoid a 29-22 Midlands One East defeat as they took just a losing bonus point from their defeat in Derbyshire.
In a match that pitted first against fourth at the start of the play, the exchanges were as close and tight, but in the end home advantage and a considerable slope in their favour in the second half saw Ilkeston home.
Ath started well as James Mortimer’s sixth minute penalty put them ahead.
Ilkeston’s response was immediate as they won the kick off and quickly spun the ball left then right before full-back Greg Taylor went over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Unfazed Ath continued to be strong in the tackle and from their physicality at the breakdown they began to make chances.
Paul Ryder punched a hole in the home side’s defence, allowing Will Allard to pick up the pass and dummy the final defender to score.
Mortimer converted for a 10-3 lead and matters improved further for the visitors minutes later as a slick interchange of passes in the backs saw space created down the right wing as Allard put in Alex Sutherland to touch down for an unconverted try.
Ath had further chances to score before half time, the best being from Stephen Woodhead’s break on his 50th first team appearance for the club.
Both Tom Orton and Stuart Polson attempted to dummy their way over for the score when there were men free out wide,while Mortimer’s drop-goal went just wide as Ath led 15-5 at the break.
Ilkeston scored almost immediately from the restart, scrum-half Joel Haigh slicing through the defence and Jonathan Falls adding the conversion.
Athletic again responded by dominating territory and possession and a series of penalties were kicked to touch as they probed for a further score.
Despite infringing on a number of occasions the home side’s defence held out and then they immediately turned the tables as Steve Quinn broke out, before crashing over under the posts a couple of phases later with Falls’ conversion putting Ilkeston 19-15 up after 55 minutes.
Forwards Allard, Polson and Rob Watkins all made good inroads, but it was Ilkeston who scored their fourth try on 70 minutes through Taylor.
Trailing 24-15 Ath responded positively as the hosts’ scrum-half was sin-binned for killing the ball.
A catch-and-drive moved followed as Ben Middleton scored and Mortimer’s conversion narrowed the gap to 24-22.
A series of pick and drives enabled Quinn to scored again for the hosts, but crucially the conversion was missed.
Bedford ended on the front foot, but a sin-binning saw them reduced to 14 men as a crossfield kick just failed to find its mark.
This Saturday Ath head to Market Bosworth, trailing the front three co-leaders by just two points.