Final-game woe for Walsham

Gravesend 99, North Walsham Vikings 0

RUGBY: North Walsham Vikings suffered a crushing defeat on Saturday at the hands of a Gravesend team who were on top of their game for this final league match of the season.

It was an injury-ravaged team that had journeyed down to Kent and a lack of familiarity in the back line coupled with inexperience at this level of rugby proved to be the Achilles heel.

For the most part, the pack held their own at the scrums and line-outs but the mobility and strength of the Gravesend back row with brothers Sox and Ziggy Stevens punching holes through the midfield and scrum-half Jon Clement making sniping runs from the base of the scrum or breakdown had the Vikings defence on the back foot throughout the game.

Gravesend were on the scoreboard within two minutes when centre Ashley Moorey cut through the Vikings backline and gave the scoring pass to wing Tom Goss who was to score a hat-trick of tries during the game. Fullback Dave Doran added the extras and increased the lead with a penalty goal towards the end of the first quarter when the Vikings were caught off-side at a disrupted scrum.

During the second quarter Gravesend began to up the intensity of their game and tries were scored at regular intervals by Harman, Moorey, Goss and Curley with Doran adding the extras.

The Vikings had had few opportunities to attack the Gravesend line during the first half and when they did either lost the ball in the contact or at the breakdown. Lee Sandberg and Gerald Hegarty played with their normal zest and verve but against a resolute defence there was nothing to show for their efforts. Half-time score: Gravesend 38, North Walsham Vikings 0.

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The second half saw Gravesend put on a comprehensive display of 15-man rugby that was to overwhelm the Vikings. The pace of the game saw the Walsham defence lose its shape, despite Nick Greenhall making an appearance as sub for Jake Harris, and the holes created in the backline allowed the Gravesend three-quarters to run through at will.

Nine tries were scored, six by the backs, Goss, Bishop, Dorton, Gray (2), and Jon Clement, three by the forwards, Matt Clement (2) and Papworth with Doran converting all but one.

It was a disappointing end to a hard season for North Walsham and with Diss also being relegated to London One North there will be no Norfolk side playing in the national leagues for the first time in 20 years.

The off-season will be a time for sober reflection at North Walsham and the rugby community of Norfolk if it wishes to see the game played in future at national league level.

The Norfolk Cup final between North Walsham and Diss will be played at Scottow on Saturday May 7, kick-off 3pm.

n The North Walsham sevens scheduled for the weekend of April 30 to May 1 has been postponed due to the unavailability of club sides.