Newcastle Falcons recorded their 22nd successive victory on Friday night at Kingston Park Stadium, defeating Bedford Blues to once again underline their promotion credentials.
Leading 17-0 at half-time and wrapping up the bonus point after the break, Newcastle made the most of their opportunity for match action on a weekend when the sporting schedule has been decimated by postponements.
The Falcons began at a high pace but had to wait until the tenth minute for their first points of the evening, a series of close-range pick-and-goes ending with Logovi’i Mulipola ploughing over the try-line.
Brett Connon’s attempted conversion was curled right of its target, but his side maintained their attacking intent as Adam Radwan caught a loose ball and darted down the right, offloading to Flood on the Blues’ 22 and forcing the visitors into some fine scrambling defence to avert the danger.
Ben Stevenson cut against the grain from a line-out in Bedford’s red zone to create further problems for the visitors, who escaped with a relieving penalty as the league leaders went off their feet at the resulting ruck.
The second finally try finally arrived on 29 minutes, co-captain Michael Young showing great leg strength and refusing to die with the ball as he reached out to ground an unconverted score in the left corner.
Bedford came back into the contest as the interval approached, a sequence of penalties seeing them bombarding the Newcastle line, crucially without return as the league leaders’ defence held firm.
The Falcons were proving much more ruthless with their visits to the opposition 22, and found try number three with the final play of the half when a 20-metre rolling maul was pulled down within sight of the line – referee Andrew Jackson having no hesitation in awarding the penalty try.
That left the Falcons 17-0 up at half-time and needing one more try for the bonus point – George McGuigan duly obliging just five minutes after the restart when he peeled off the back of a driving maul in the right corner to dot down.
Connon’s touchline conversion added further to the volume within Kingston Park Stadium, which went up another notch when McGuigan scored yet another driving maul try, this time down the left.
The sixth try came just after the hour mark when replacement Nemani Nagusa broke away like a runaway train down the right-hand side, bursting through a ruck and sprinting to the corner for an unconverted score.
Philip van der Walt was a whisker away from number seven when Joel Hodgson’s quickly-tapped penalty and Tom Arscott’s outside arc almost freed the back-rower for a try in the left corner, only for the ball to be knocked on.
It was only a temporary blip as the scoring resumed less than two minutes later, replacement Tim Swiel the next to go over with a slick finish down the right, converted by Flood, in what turned out to be the final try of the night.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Adam Radwan (Tim Swiel, 63), 13 Johnny Williams, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon (Gareth Owen, 55), 9 Michael Young (co-captain, Joel Hodgson, 64); 1 Trevor Davison (Adam Brocklebank, 64), 2 George McGuigan (co-captain, Charlie Maddison, 64), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (Mike Daniels, 55), 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Will Montgomery (Toby Salmon, 63), 6 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (Nemani Nagusa, 40), 8 Philip van der Walt.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Logovi’i Mulipola, Michael Young, Penalty try, George McGuigan 2, Nemani Nagusa, Tim Swiel. Conversions: Brett Connon, Toby Flood.
Bedford Blues: 15 Rich Lane, 14 Ryan Hutler (Grayson Hart, 63), 13 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, 12 Lewis Robling, 11 Matt Worley, 10 Sam Leeming (Will Maisey, 51), 9 Connor Tupai; 1 Sean McCarthy (captain, Joe Wrafter, 51), 2 Robbie Smith (Jacob Fields, 51), 3 Alex Penny (Henry Paul, 51), 4 Jordan Onojaife (Will Carrick Smith, 63), 5 Oli Curry, 6 Dan Temm, 7 Joe Atkinson, 8 Alafoti Fa’osiliva (Huw Worthington, 55).
Referee: Andrew Jackson. Attendance: 3,999.