England’s World Cup woes were not lost on Ilkeston, who were condemned to their third defeat of the new rugby union season by a poor first-half performance at home to Bedford Athletic.
Stunned Elks trailed 24-0 at the interval and although they staged a comeback with three tries in the second period, they still lost 39-17 to leave them in the bottom five of the Midlands 1 East division.
Individual errors and lost ball in contact were pinpointed as the main reasons for the setback, although Bedford, who have now won four of their opening five games, thoroughly deserved their victory.
Now Ilkeston need to bounce back this Saturday when they make a difficult trip to Northamptonshire to face Bugbrooke, which has not been a happy hunting-ground for them in the past.
Kicking uphill in that opening half, the home side saw plenty of possession but were guilty of far too many knock-ons and were 7-0 down by the ninth minute, despite a try-saving tackle by Tom Pottinger.
Ilkeston continued to play direct rugby, stringing together several phases of play and forcing Bedford to spend long periods defending their try-line. But instead of getting on the scoresheet, they conceded a second score in the 28th minute.
The rest of the half followed a similar pattern, with Ilkeston unable to make any clean line breaks and the visitors clinical when turning the ball over, adding two more tries.
Elks responded by making three changes at half-time, sending Dan Bell, Joel Haigh and Sam Humphries into the fray. But when they went on the attack again, they were stripped in the contact area before failing to deal with a chipped, bouncing ball over the top and leaking another score to make it 31-0.
With a mountain to climb, Ilkeston did at least hit back with their best period of the game. Pottinger found space to finish well, and it wasn’t long before Chris Tipton drove forward to launch a move that led to Haigh chipping ahead and winning a race for the ball in the corner.
The deficit was even reduced to 31-17 by the 56th minute as the Elks pack won a Bedford scrum against the head and Jake Lamb exchanged passes with inside centre Paul Stevenson before going over for another try, which was converted by Andor Benji.
After a Bedford penalty five minutes later, the home team threw everything at their opponents in search of a consolatory bonus point, with man-of-the-match Tipton, whose aggression and strong running has been missed in recent weeks, again to the fore.
However, to be fair to the visitors, they regrouped and defended well, and even found time to hit Ilkeston on the counter for the final score.