Proud win for North Walsham
North Walsham 13, Tring 11There may have been only pride to play for but North Walsham clinched the points with a performance of grit and character to set the record straight with this narrow win.
North Walsham 13, Tring 11
There may have been only pride to play for but North Walsham clinched the points with a performance of grit and character to set the record straight with this narrow win.
The Vikings had already won this fixture once, only for the league officials to order a replay because Walsham were unable to contest scrums for a spell due to injury and a yellow card.
Re-scheduling for a Bank Holiday weekend meant that several players had made alternative arrangements so Walsham fielded their youngest back-line of the season, with three 17-year-olds and the 24-year-old Iain Young at
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Also making his first start at tight head after coming off the bench six times was another youngster Dom Roberts, who was outstanding before cramp curtailed his efforts, but not before he had nailed Walsham's try.
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The visitors had the best of the early exchanges and Liam Chennells converted a penalty at the second attempt after 16 minutes. Play was fluctuating and a good move by Tring ended with a kick and chase down the left flank, but superb covering by Rhodes and Sandberg held the line.
Some good handling looked certain to produce a score for the Vikings, but Tring infringed. Sandberg took a quick penalty, the ball went left and Roberts, who was perfectly placed to take the pass two metres out, lunged over the line next to the posts and Clifford converted.
Tring lost their influential full-back and captain Tom Newton when he twisted his knee, and Chennells failed to convert another penalty just before
The half-time talk must have majored on the penalty count, 13 in the first half, because in the second period the home side were much better behaved while it was Tring who were getting on the wrong side of the referee and five minutes in Young put another three on the board.
A reshuffle to the back line - Alex Graf-Grote on for Clifford - reduced the average age still further and Young going to inside centre did nothing to upset Walsham's rhythm.
The improvement in Walsham's defence at Portsmouth was carried over. With Cousens, Sokia, Godwin and Young closing down the middle of the park, Tring were set on getting the ball wide to the wings - but the cover there was just as tight.
McCall was harshly yellow carded and Chennells brought the gap to four, but Tring were also a man down when Andy Gregg was sin-binned.
Walsham were stunned when a visiting player, unseen by the referee knocked on. Every player bar one, Tim Holgate, stopped, but the winger set off on a 90-metre run to the line. The chase back ensured that he could only touch down in the corner, too far out for the conversion.
The crowd might have been stunned but the Walsham players, showing enormous character, stormed back.
Tring defended illegally a couple of metres out, lock Huw Slater was carded and Walsham, who might have expected a penalty try, settled for the kick at goal, Young making no mistake.
The scoreline might have been narrow, the result was great but the performance was greater, full of self-belief.
North Walsham play their final game of the season at Scottow on Saturday, against relegation-threatened Haywards Heath.