A courageous second-half resurgence wasn’t quite enough to overcome a weak first-half as Bedford Athletic lost their East Midlands derby to Peterborough Lions 28-24 on Saturday.
They shared eight tries but the Ath were once again left to rue what might have been.
A strong start from hosts Bedford should have produced a score but the Lions held out well.
Lions kicked to touch from a penalty and Athletic stood off the resulting rolling maul from the lineout allowing it to travel 30 metres before Nick Thomas collapsed it and conceded both a penalty try and a yellow card.
The response from Bedford was positive and they won a free-kick from the five- metre scrum, spreading the ball wide for Charlie Darlow to score in the far corner, James Mortimer converting to tie the scores at 7-7.
Athletic began to retreat from the physical contest and when Ryan Taylor gave away a needless penalty at a ruck and conceded a further 10 metres for throwing the ball away it was an invitation for the Lions to repeat their catch-and-drive routine, with Ben Howard this time powering over.
Lions dominated the remainder of the half and Jack Lewis soon crossed from close range for their third try before halfbacks Tom Dougherty and Nico DeFeo combined well on the stroke of half-time to rip the home defence apart, with Carrington’s conversion making it 28-7 at oranges.
The second period was dominated almost in its entirety by Bedford.
The first score came on 45 minutes when Stephen Woodhead broke the line and fed Darlow for a try that Mortimer failed to convert but which did offer the home side a lifeline at 28-12.
Lions were beginning to get fractious and sloppy and from a quick lineout on 53 minutes Athletic spread the play down their backline for Josh Cassell to cross in the corner and narrow the gap to 28-17.
Further Bedford pressure saw Lions’ fly-half DeFeo sin binned and Athletic nearly scored in response when Cassell was held up over the line from the next phase of play.
Further ill-discipline cost Lions as Darren Fox was sin binned for back-chatting to the referee on 61 minutes and Bedford finally broke through for their bonus point try minutes later. John Clarke picked the ball out of a ruck before charging for the line and when play was recycled Andy Ince eventually crashed over.
Mortimer converted to narrow the gap to 28-24 on 66 minutes.
Chances still came for the hosts. A chip ahead when Steve Smith was through with only the fullback to beat deserved more than landing in the full back’s hands and in the final stages Athletic threw everything they had into creating a winning score but it wouldn’t come.