By Bob Walker
A hastily re-arranged friendly away at a blustery Kesteven may not have been to everyone's liking but this ended up being a notable day for a number of reasons.
It began with our 2nds sitting on top of the league for the first time because our original opponents, Cleethorpes, cried off on Thursday - thus gifting us the five points we would probably have earned on the East Coast anyway.
It was a disappointing move from Cleethorpes who until now had managed to honour every home fixture.
Given the respective league levels of Newark and Kesteven, this was a game we were expected to win comfortably and so it proved. Kesteven are able to field a second string every week but the problem for them has been finding opposition. Too many clubs have cancelled fixtures against them.
The result was never really in doubt but it was a frustratingly scrappy start by Newark with a number of annoying handling errors. Our scrum was totally dominant in the opening exchanges until prop Sam Brown was forced off with a thigh injury. The game went to uncontested scrums - nullifying an important part of Newark's game.
With flanker Josh Stamp a constant menace - and with strong running support from Alex Hales and Matt Christian - Kesteven were forced to defend for lengthy periods. One Christian carry eventually enabled centre Chris Tate to cut back inside for the first try which George Leeson converted.
Hales then juggled a pass from the rampaging Stamp to add Newark's second and Leeson's conversion made it 14-0.
As sad as it was to see Ed Armstrong hobbling around the pitch on crutches after breaking his ankle with the 1sts, it was uplifting to watch his younger brother Johnno put in another impressive all round performance. He may not be the biggest but he stole the ball at the breakdown and a flowing move across the pitch ended with winger Tom Partridge winning a trademark race to the corner . Leeson's booming kick from the touchline made the half time score 21-0.
Kesteven's team included a couple of players who were stepping on to a rugby pitch for the first time but they never gave in and early in the second half an interception try from our line out put them on the score sheet.
Two huge passes along the backs found Armstrong wide on the left. It was a tricky pass to take but he clung on and cut inside. He was felled by one tackle but got to his feet and dived over for Newark's 4th try. Leeson ended the try fest with a nice double dummy to go over near the posts. He didn't miss a single conversion all game.
Then came two rather nice vignettes for us. Coach Richard Byrom, defying the years, went on for the last ten minutes and came close to scoring
But the champagne moment was watching Nik Codd join his two sons Josh (23) and Isaac (18) on the pitch. Nik, of course, has been a great servant for Newark down the decades and Josh has been putting in some great performances at 1st and 2nd XV level. Isaac dislocated his shoulder and missed the whole of last season . To see all three on the pitch together shows just how strong the Newark family is.
So even though our initial plan for an old-school coach trip to Cleethorpes was ruined, there were plenty of positives to take away from the day. Results in the games that did take place in our league mean we now lie joint second on points with Southwell and just two points behind the leaders, Nottingham Medics.
Saturday's clash with 4th-placed Meden Vale (who beat us earlier this season) will be a crucial test. Get down to Kelham Road and cheer the boys on. They've earned it.
Tries: Chris Tate, Alex Hales, Tom Partridge, Johnno Armstrong, George Leeson.
Conversions: Leeson (5)
NUMBERS AVAILABLE NOW
£10 A MONTH TO WIN £250 EACH MONTH
£1000 AT CHRISTMAS
APPLICATION FORMS FROM JAYNE