North Walsham coach has plenty of options for home clash with Ruislip

Matt Hodgson plots a way through the Sudbury defence during an impressive win for North Walsham Pict

Matt Hodgson plots a way through the Sudbury defence during an impressive win for North Walsham Picture: HYWEL JONES - Credit: Archant

Having started the New Year with a five point win at Sudbury, consolidating their third place in London One North, North Walsham take on strugglers Ruislip at Scottow on Saturday (3pm).

Ruislip, third from bottom with just two wins and a draw to their name, have been struggling to get out of the lower reaches for most of the season.

But the wins came as recently as early December and they showed their fighting spirit last weekend, putting in a late surge to gain a four try bonus point against Colchester.

Vikings' coach Johnny Marsters was pleased with the performance against a Sudbury side whose skill and persistence belied their lowly position, and with the fact that all the squad came through without injury. That said, he will still have decisions to make on the selection front as Mike Braans and Donavin Dejongh could return to challenge for a place in the back division.

More good news is that both Dan Smith and Jake Duffield, who have been out for a few weeks with injuries, have been passed fit and are likely to be back in contention.

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Up front, Marsters will be spared having to make a decision on who plays hooker, with last week's man-of-the-match Tom Knight retaining the shirt with Will Swart still away. It would seem almost certain that lock Ryan Oakes will move back in, with either Matt Travers or Dan Bird as his second row partner. Tom Browes, who had an impressive afternoon with the Raiders, could also figure in the selection process.

The Raiders, who had a good win against Norwich Medics last week despite again having a much changed side, take on Diss Saracens at Scottow (2pm). Coach Aaron Beaumont will be hoping that both Nathan Bensley and Jack Parker will be back to contend for a spot in the second row although young Michael Batty filled in last week with a solid performance.

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The game signals the end of the first part of the season as the three divisions of EC One are re-jigged, with the top two in each going into a new one and the same happening with the pairs below.

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

Following last week's confidence boosting home win against Luton, Diss face a tough fixture at Eton Manor in London One North.

Whilst a first win of the season was most welcome, the players and coaches have not lost sight of the task facing them in the coming weeks and remainder of the season.

They remain six points below Fullerians at the foot of the table, with Ruislip and Luton a further four points better off, but at least last week's impressive 40-19 win at Mackenders has given them something to build on.

A number of forced changes mean that Jack Owen makes his first team debut in the back row and the ever reliable Matt Cullum returns to the engine room to partner captain John Bergin. George Easton moves to No 8 in place of John Laurie.

Chris Beaird retains the No 9 jersey after last week's outstanding display and will be partnered by the returning Marco Mongia, who covers for George Jones at fly-half.

Warren Wilby is not available and is replaced by Andre Dunn, who will yet again partner Tom Miller in midfield.

An experienced bench of David Rackham, Ben Walker and Giles West will without doubt be called upon to bolster the team during the game.

Eton Manor are currently seventh in the table after seven wins, seven defeats and one draw. They beat Diss 42-13 in the reverse fixture at Mackenders back in September.

Diss also have a Norfolk Senior Cup semi-final to look forward to, with their tie against North Walsham at Scottow having been confirmed for Saturday, February 2 (reserve date February 23).

The other semi-final will see Thetford host Norwich.

The last four matches in the other county competitions are set to take place on Saturday week (January 19), although the outstanding Intermediate Cup quarter-final between West Norfolk and Norwich Medics has been booked for that date, with the semi-final to follow in due course.

Intermediate Cup: North Walsham II v West Norfolk or Norwich Medics, Holt v Crusaders.

Junior Cup: Wymondham II v Holt II or Dereham, UEA v Diss 111.

Bowl: Wymondham III v West Norfolk II, Crusaders II v Holt III.

Norwich head to Stowmarket in London Two North East tomorrow for what is sure to be tough encounter.

Norwich's defeats this season have varied between one and four point margins, with one exception being the 15 point reverse handed to them by Stowmarket at Beeston Hyrne in September.

Despite only being third, Stowmarket are arguably the best balanced side in the league and Norwich will need to be more ruthless than they were last week in their 33-24 victory over Ipswich to prevail.

Their cause is not helped by the absence of influential players Tom Moss and Jonty Newton through injury as well as Laurence Austin, who only trained for the first time on Tuesday after many weeks on the injury list.

'On the whole it was a good performance against Ipswich last week but there were far too many missed opportunities because we turned the ball over when in the attacking third of the field,' said director of rugby David Everitt. 'This is a problem that has caused us to lose games this season and the coaches have been working hard at training to ensure that we don't repeat this.

'Stowmarket are a well organised side and beat us comprehensively at home in September. If we are to come away with a result we will need to be at our best and eliminate the wasted opportunities.'

Norwich go into the match with three straight wins under their belts and are just three points behind Stowmarket in fourth.

Southwold, beaten 41-17 at leaders Woodford last week, host South Woodham Ferrers in a mid-table encounter tomorrow. The teams are locked together on 27 points after 13 matches.

It's getting interesting at the top of London Three Eastern Counties, with Holt now just two points ahead of second placed Wymondham after surprisingly blowing a 13 point lead late on to lose 29-27 at lowly Ipswich YM last Saturday.

Holt will be aiming to bounce back when they host struggling Thurston, who are now just one point off the foot of the table after losing 80-10 at Wisbech last week.

Wymondham welcome Wisbech to Barnard Fields while third placed Ely host Thetford, Fakenham entertain Crusaders and West Norfolk are at Woodbridge.

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