Newcastle Falcons had to roll up their sleeves and produce a gritty second-half performance to maintain their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday at Goldington Road.
Torrential rain took an inevitable toll on the handling of both teams, Bedford leading 3-0 at half-time after a scrappy opening 40 which yielded little in the way of realistic scoring chances other than close-range set-pieces, which were successfully defended.
Tom Arscott sent a perfectly-weighted kick down to the left corner where Bedford were able to clear from the resulting line-out in an early flurry of excitement which was not to last beyond the first few minutes.
Toby Flood’s claim for a try in the right corner was denied when the fly-half was judged to have been in front of the kicker before mounting a pursuit of a grubber ahead from the Blues’ 22, and the home side, too, had an effort chalked off when a maul in the left corner saw an infringement before crossing the try-line.
A further Bedford penalty was kicked to the opposite corner where superb maul defence from the Falcons averted the danger, but the home side finally turned their territory into points on 22 minutes when USA international fly-half Will Hooley sent over a simple three points from a penalty in front of the posts in what was to be the only score of the half.
Newcastle responded with a period of phase play in the Bedford half but were unable to hold onto the ball in contact as the greasy conditions took their toll, their cause hindered further by the sin-binning of Rodney Ah You at a maul near their own line.
The Blues were unable to turn their numerical supremacy into further points as a succession of line-outs and a five-metre scrum were defended by the visitors, Bedford having to make do with their 3-0 lead at the break.
Newcastle began the second half with a more pragmatic approach, keeping the ball tight and profiting when a penalty was kicked to the right corner for a close-range line-out from which John Hardie scored at the back of an unstoppable maul.
Flood missed the conversion from out wide but made no mistake from a simple penalty in front of the posts four minutes later, Newcastle having gone close from a play down the right which saw George Wacokecoke and Adam Radwan combining to give Rodney Ah You a close-range opportunity.
The Falcons’ territorial dominance began to grow, but Bedford gamely defended a string of close-range line-outs to maintain the five-point deficit, replacement Joel Hodgson looking to release his back line with a string of chips and grubbers on the greasy surface.
Flood probed with a low kick along the ground and almost produced a second try, but with advantage not forthcoming the fly-half sent over a second penalty seven minutes from time to extend his side’s advantage to eight points.
Hooley responded almost instantly with a penalty from similar range, setting up a tense final five minutes, Newcastle having to rely on all their grit to close out the victory.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Dominic Waldouck (Joel Hodgson, 50), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young (co-captain); 1 Sam Lockwood (Trevor Davison, 65), 2 George McGuigan (co-captain, Jamie Blamire, 69), 3 Rodney Ah You (Mark Tampin, 67), 4 Darren Barry, 5 Sean Robinson (Sebastian de Chaves, 63), 6 Callum Chick, 7 John Hardie, 8 Nemani Nagusa (Will Welch, 39).
Falcons scorers - Tries: John Hardie. Penalties: Toby Flood 2.
Bedford Blues: 15 Ali Crossdale, 14 Pat Tapley (Dean Adamson, 50), 13 Ed Coulson (Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas, 39), 12 Lewis Robling, 11 Ryan Hutler, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Grayson Hart (James Lennon, 74); 1 Sean McCarthy (captain, Joe Wrafter, 61), 2 Robbie Smith (Jacob Fields, 61), 3 Henry Paul (Andrew Boyce, 63), 4 Jordan Onojaife, 5 Will Carrick Smith (Huw Worthington, 63), 6 Oli Curry, 7 Joe Atkinson, 8 Dan Temm.
Bedford scorers - Tries: Penalties: Will Hooley 2.
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe. Attendance: 2,772.