In a game which they dominated from start to finish the visitors scored 5 tries and deprived their hosts of a score and restricted their scoring opportunities to a minimum.
The game may have been a comprehensive victory for the away side but the first significant action of the day was a try saving tackle by wing Stephen Woodhead on Newark’s Fijian centre Aloesi Waqalevu. From the resulting scrum the ball was spread wide to the right wing where thanks to quick hands from full back Charlie Darlow, Woodhead was able to chip the defence and regather his own kick to score. James Mortimer’s conversion gave Bedford Athletic a 7-0 lead after seven minutes. Five minutes later the backs once again ran hard at the home defence and accurate handling from Steve Smith, Tommy Mills and Darlow set Tom Dolemore free down the left wing to cross for the second try, Mortimer again converting. Still the visitors surged forward and a hanging kick from Mortimer had the Newark full back under pressure, captain Rob Watkins gathered the loose ball and great support play from Smith saw him run under the posts unopposed for the third try. On the half hour mark Athletic did spill a ball in their own half but turned over play from the resulting scrum. They then stole the home throw at the line out and launched attacks across the pitch, first left and then right with Watkins finding the space to score. Mortimer’s conversion meant that Bedford Athletic led 28-0 at half time and the scoreline didn’t flatter them with Tom Neale giving them a platform in the scrum, Watkins and Ben Middleton dominant in the lineout and Mortimer controlling the game with astute tactical kicking meaning that the visitors were playing the game in all the right areas of the pitch.
Bedford Athletic re-emphasised their control at the start of the second half as Mortimer kicked a penalty. Thereafter the rain seemed to get a bit harder, the ball a bit wetter and in the conditions any continuity became very difficult. The visitors did not help themselves with a rash of penalties seeing first Tom Neale and then Stefan Hughes-Brand sin-binned on 53 and 57 minutes respectively. Still the visiting defence held firm and any attacks that did materialise close to their line were quickly snuffed out despite their shortage of numbers. Restored to a full complement, Athletic finished the game the stronger and with Mortimer continuing to give them field position eventually a lineout in the home 22 was won and although the initial forward drive was halted the backs exploited the space for Woodhead to cap a man of the match performance by crossing for his second try.
With a bonus point win and Derby’s failure to secure a bonus point in their win at Market Rasen, Bedford Athletic inherit top spot in the league but they will face a stiff test of their credentials as third place Newbold provide the opposition on Saturday at Putnoe Wood with a 2.15pm kick off.