Bedford Athletic suffered a chastening defeat at third placed Newbold as they went down by 27 points to nil in what was just their second defeat of the season.
It was the team’s heaviest loss in two seasons in Midlands One East and the first time they have failed to score since the 32-0 defeat to Nuneaton three seasons ago.
The home side broke the deadlock in the 16th minute when pacy winger Adam Shaw – on loan from Northampton Saints – outsprinted the visiting defence and earned a penalty that Dan O’Brien kicked for the opening score.
Crucially in the minutes before half-time, three lineouts in a row were missed by Athletic and Newbold capitalised. Shaw, who has run the 200 metres in 23.2s, 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.
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 did fashion a response and exerted some pressure of their own in the home side’s 22, but 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.
The hosts then went through several set scrums and finally drove Bedford back 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.
The defeat sees Athletic’s lead at the top of the table cut to eight points.
Ultimately this loss will not define Bedford’s 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, starting with a home game against Northampton Old Scouts on Saturday, March 19 with a 3pm kick-off.