North Walsham poised for showdown with play-off rivals Colchester

Matt Travers gets North Walsham moving forward again during their big win over Ruislip Picture: HYWE

Matt Travers gets North Walsham moving forward again during their big win over Ruislip Picture: HYWEL JONES - Credit: Archant

North Walsham take part in what is effectively a battle for a play-off place at the end of the season on Saturday when they travel to Colchester.

The Essex side have held second spot in London One North all season as heavily financed Rochford Hundred have taken what now appears to be an unassailable lead.

With the Vikings also going well in third the difference between Saturday's protagonists is just three points. Colchester have dropped points only to Rochford while Walsham's defeats have come at the hands of both the teams above them, although in each game they ran the opposition close.

They went down 21-12 at home to Colchester in September and lost 29-10 at Rochford five weeks later.

If anyone was to make a book on this game the Vikings would certainly be ranked as outsiders but the odds would be narrow as Colchester have been the higher scorers but defensively the points conceded column shows a gap of just three points.

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Coach Johnny Marsters was delighted with the display in the big win over Ruislip last week. The fact that the Vikings were still trying to cross the opposition line at the final whistle showed that the mindset of the players is just how he would want it to be.

There were no obvious injuries at the end of last week's game and it is difficult to see where the changes will be made. Up front, despite Tom Knight calling off late on with a back injury, the front row looked solid with Tom Browes moving to hooker. The return from holiday of Will Swart adds a further option for Marsters.

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Despite the fact that both Mike Braans and Donavin Dejongh will be available it is hard to see where Marsters will make changes. One highlight performance last week was that of Jake Duffield at scrum-half for the first time since January last year, with his service from the base of the rucks fast and incisive.

Support for the team is likely to be vocal as there is a supporters' coach leaving Scottow at 11.15am.

North Walsham (from): L Brown-Bates, W Swart, G Youngs, N Rokodinono, T Browes, D Bird, M Travers, R Oakes, C Godwin, R Miller, W Hodgson, L Thomson, J Duffield, M Hodgson, D Smith, J Knight, J Milligan, J Riley, M Braans, B O'Hickey.

Following last weekend's difficult trip to Eton Manor, which ended in a 77-5 defeat, Diss face an even tougher task in London One North on Saturday.

The visitors to Mackenders are runaway leaders Rochford Hundred who are not only the form side in the league but also the most technically advanced.

The Essex outfit have picked up bonus point wins in all 16 of their games so far, scoring 993 points while conceding just 122, and beat Diss 69-7 in the reverse fixture in September. By contrast their hosts have lost 15 out of 16, although they did get off the mark against Luton in the previous home game.

Saturday's fixture will almost certainly prove to be a damage limitation exercise for the home side. But David Smith and his coaching team hope that the positive response from their first league win and last week's brave display, especially in the first half, will hold the team together for what will be a demanding afternoon.

Peter Bray returns to the front row, with Ed Hudson moving to the hooker berth, while Sam Jacobs returns to the second row after a year of travelling and injury.

Jack Owen continues in the second row after his brave efforts last week. A midfield combination of George Jones, Warren Wilby and the returning Joe Hegarty should see a defensive structure that will challenge the leaders as well as posing interesting options when on the attack.

Chris Beaird returns to full-back and will be ably supported by the likes of Shaun Blythe, Tom Miller and Freddie Precious.

The London One North programme takes centre stage this weekend, with other leagues taking a break.

But there is an important game in Eastern Counties One North, with Norwich Union playing host to Norwich II in a replay of a fixture that was abandoned when Norwich player coach Stewart Cameron broke his leg.

Union need to win to ensure they finish second in the league before a split which will see Norfolk sides going head to with the teams finishing in corresponding positions in the West and North divisions.

Meanwhile Holt are at home to Crusaders in the Intermediate Norfolk Cup semi-finals (1.30pm), having beaten Union 25-17 in the previous round.

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