Gutsy Athletic grind out the victory at Newark

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A gritty and determined away performance earned Bedford Athletic victory at Newark by 25 points to 5.

Significantly they overcame the handicap of playing for 10 minutes in the second half with 12 men to survive, prosper and defeat their hosts by three tries to one.

Athletic were hit by serious injury problems in the opening 15 minutes as first full-back Tom Dolemore and then captain Rob Watkins had to retire from the fray.

However, James Mortimer did manage to kick a penalty goal in this period to open Athletics’ account.

The game only really came to life when both hookers were sin binned for fighting after 25 minutes.

Athletic kicked the penalty to touch on the Newark line and the series of catch and drive routines that followed induced further offences from the home side that saw both their prop and number 7 given yellow cards.

Faced with 12 men, Bedford Athletic spread the play across the field with Ben Johnson finding the space to score and Mortimer converting for a 10-0 lead.

Newark appeared to have seized back the initiative immediately after the break when fly-half Matt Cox broke through several tackles to narrow the gap to 10-5 with a try.

Athletic’s response was immediate, with Mortimer kicking a penalty, and then another series of phases led to Mortimer’s cross-field kick finding Paul Ryder in acres of space to cross for a try that Mortimer converted for a 20-5 lead.

With half an hour left to play it appeared that Bedford had taken a decisive grip on the game, but series of penalties conceded in their own 22 that saw both Ryan Taylor and Tom Orton sin binned.

With prop Taylor off the field and his opposite prop Guiseppe Picanza having already been replaced through injury, uncontested scrums were called – but Bedford were also reduced to 12 men.

Nevertheless that 12 men held out heroically in defence, albeit aided by some fairly daft decision making from their hosts, who now chose to drive the ball close to the pack and fail to exploit numerous overlaps.

Eventually Athletic cleared their lines and, restored to 14 men, drove a lineout close to the Newark line for a try to Chris Elliott which although not converted gave Bedford Athletic a 25-5 lead to confirm the win.