Bedford Tigers secured top spot in the East Men’s Rugby League Premier Division and a home semi-final tie by winning 44-30 at St Ives on Saturday.
The Tigers went into the game with five first-team debuts handed to Jack Webb, Chris Elliott, Chris Powell, Trevor Hibbert and Stephen Hill, as well as Colin Liddell making a well-received return to action.
The first try came for Bedford through Hibbert, Josh Spearing busting through a tackle and off-loading to the debutant who scored under the posts.
Rob Ashton converted his first of five conversions for the afternoon, but Roosters then pulled a try back after Rhod Howcroft powered over from close range with Paul Ashbridge converting.
The Tigers’ second try then came from a first tackle break from Ollie Fountain who spotted the St Ives fullback five metres behind the defensive line, jinked into the gap and broke from 80 metres and raced between the sticks.
Carl Siudak then touched down for his first of the afternoon after the Tigers shifted the ball down the wing and exploited an overlap and the weak Roosters fringe defence.
Ashton converted again and Tigers led 18-6 before the water break.
The interval favoured St Ives, who scored two more tries through David Sykes with Ashbridge converting both to level the game at 18-18.
Tigers went into half-time with the lead however with two tries of their own.
>> Continued from back
The first was Siudak again scoring his second after running a brilliant line and collecting a flat ball from Lee Walker to crash over on the left hand edge once again, Ashton missing the conversion.
Hill then scored a try on his debut after wonderful support play following a Walker break.
Walker and Liddell interchanged the ball toying with the fullback, and Hill collected the pass from Walker and scored just to the right on the posts.
Ashton converted this time, and Bedford headed into the break leading 28-18.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was full of errors from both sides, although Bedford did increase their lead through Charlie Palmer who dotted down on left wing.
Ashton missing his second conversion of the afternoon.
Howcroft then scored his second try for the Roosters after another powerful run from five metres out, Ashbridge converting again.
With 20 minutes to go and Tigers only holding an eight-point lead, Sean Tribbeck eased the nerves for Tigers supporters after scoring another length-of-the-pitch try, beating three defenders to touch down.
Ashton converted his final kick of the game to extend the Tigers lead to 14 points.
Sykes then completed his hat-trick for St Ives with Ashbridge again converting to bring the deficit down to eight points with five minutes remaining.
The final try came from Bedford to secure the win when Walker put the Tigers 10 metres out with a full-set of tackles remaining.
After a central run from Hill, Jordan Marshall collected the ball and darted under the posts to score his well deserved and first try of the season. Walker converted to finish the game off.
Tigers, who are still unbeaten this season, will now wait to find out their semi-final opponents with two regular season games remaining.
This week Bedford travel to second-placed St Albans.
Bedford Tigers: Josh Spearing, Charlie Palmer, Ed Strand, Ollie Fountain, Sean Tribbeck, Lee Walker, Colin Liddell, Carl Siudak, Jack Webb, Dan Ridge, Chris Elliott, Lewis McCracken, Rob Ashton, Waide Allen, Chris Powell, Stephen Hill, Trevor Hibbert, Jordan Marshall.
St Ives Roosters: Jack Blackley, Tom Evans, Barnie West, Luke Slade, Tom Johnson, Jack Trolove, Paul Ashbridge, Aaron Throne, David Sykes, Rhod Howcroft, Mickey Blackley, Matt Wood, Tommy Newman, Liam Harrison, Ross Thompson, Jim Lewisham, Doug Smith.