It was the team’s heaviest defeat in two seasons in Midlands One East and the first time they have failed to score a point since the 32-0 defeat to Nuneaton three seasons ago.
Early exchanges were relatively even although the muddy conditions underfoot favoured the heavier home side. The first chance of the game came to Stephen Woodhead who was nearly through a gap in the home side’s line and minutes later he set up a rapid counter attack down the right wing, kicking ahead only for David Simpson to just miss out on the race for the touchdown. However the home side were starting to go through the phases and although good defence kept them at bay they finally broke through in the 16th minute. Pacy winger Adam Shaw, on loan from Northampton Saints, outsprinted the visiting defence and although he was brought down by a fine covering tackle from Josh Pearson he earned the penalty that Dan O’Brien kicked for the opening score. O’ Brien was not successful with a second kick five minutes later and the visitors appeared to have weathered the early storm as they came back into the game as the half went on. Crucially in the minutes before half time possession was lost as three lineouts in a row were missed and Newbold capitalised. Their driving game through the centre of the pitch opened up gaps out wide and Adam Shaw who has run the 200 metres in 23.2 seconds easily sprinted away down the right wing in the final play of the half for the first try of the game. O’ Brien converted for a 10-0 half time lead.
The wind had picked up at the start of the second half and was into the faces of the Bedford Athletic side. An horrendous cross field kick that dropped straight into the hands of Shaw could have led to a second Newbold try but for a poor decision by the touch judge who erroneously ruled that he stepped out of play. Nevertheless Newbold kept the pressure up and a well-judged kick from O’Brien saw Bedford Athletic trapped on their own 22. The ball was lost following the scrum and Newbold piled forward with wave after wave of attacks pounding the visiting line. Eventually the dam was breached and Mark Hyde touched down for the second try of the day which O’Brien converted on 50 minutes. Bedford Athletic did fashion a response and exerted some pressure of their own in the home side’s 22. Just when it appeared that they had finally put enough pace and momentum on the game to create space out wide the forwards decided to drive the ball on through several extra phases and the opportunity was gone. Once Newbold relieved the pressure they were able to consolidate the lead with a further O’Brien penalty on 68 minutes for a 20-0 lead. Dropped passes and poor handling prevented any further momentum from the visiting side. Once they had re-established a platform in the Athletic 22, Newbold went through several set scrums and finally drove the Bedford Athletic eight backwards for Daniel Facer to touch down for the third try. With a couple of minutes left Newbold went for the bonus point but their chance disappeared when Phil Reed knocked on an opportunistic interception and they had to settle for the 27-0 win. Overall Bedford Athletic were outmuscled and overpowered but their defence in defeat did prevent Newbold gaining a fourth and bonus point try and that may yet prove crucial in the title run in.
The defeat sees Bedford Athletics’ lead at the top of the table cut to eight points. It was only their second defeat of the season both of which have come away to the two sides in second and third position. Ultimately this defeat will not define Bedford Athletics’ season but the manner of how they respond to it will. Three wins from the final four games are needed to be certain of the league crown and following a break from first team action next weekend they will look to restore the credibility of their title challenge at home to Northampton Old Scouts on Saturday 19th March with a 3pm kick off.