Vikings playing for pride

ALTHOUGH relegation has consigned them to London One next season, all the North Walsham rugby players are determined to go out on a high when Lydney come to Scottow on Saturday for the final game of the season.

ALTHOUGH relegation has consigned them to London One next season, all the North Walsham rugby players are determined to go out on a high when Lydney come to Scottow on Saturday for the final game of the season.

Although it has been apparent for several weeks, and certainly since the poor showing against Clifton, that relegation was a distinct possibility, the effort put in by players, coaches and support staff has been no less than it would have been had they been fighting for promotion.

Having given phenomenal support for the past 19 seasons, Saturday should see no less on the touchline to urge on the players who have pulled on the Vikings shirt with pride.

Lydney, from the rugby hotspot the Forest of Dean, have had for them an average season, having ceded the high ground to near neighbours Cinderford who go into the playoffs in a couple of weeks time with an excellent chance of progressing to Division Two but last weekend they thrashed bottom side Luton.

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In the away fixture down at Lydney, the season opener, the Severnsiders won 38-0 but despite their league position there are many who believe that the current Walsham squad is a better one.

Dave Smith is likely to have selection issues. As usual, season end sees the retirement of some stalwarts, this time notably they will include skipper Andy Thorpe after 158 games in which he has scored 116 tries, a record which makes him only one of four players to score 100 or more tries in National League Rugby.

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Kick off is as usual at 3pm and the Raiders will be hoping to play their final fixture against Beccles probably kicking off at 2.30pm.

Ealing 52, North Walsham Vikings 12

The Vikings tumbled out of the National Leagues following this nine-try drubbing by an impressive Ealing. The Vikings needed a win to have any hope of avoiding the drop, and, until just before the break, a victory looked within their grasp as they clung tenaciously to a 7-5 lead.

Then a try and penalty on the stroke of half-time, followed by three early second half tries sealed their fate.

Fielding a settled side has been a season long problem and this was no exception with seven changes, some positional, from the team that had run champions Mounts Bay close in the previous game.

Ealing dominated the early exchanges and it was no surprise when after 10 minutes Simon Bundy scored, aided by some weak tackling. Three minutes later, with only their second attack, the Vikings took the lead. Mike Howard, who had yet another outstanding game, spotted the defence was disorganised and took a free-kick quickly to storm over from 20 metres. Iain Young converted.

For the next half hour the Vikings held the lead. But as half-time approached Ealing began to dominate and it took an outstanding tackle from Young to prevent a try. At the ensuing five metre line out disaster struck as the Vikings' throw landed in the hands of Russell Carr who scored easily. Then, with the last action of the half, a Ben Ward penalty made it 13-7.

The Vikings were still very much in the game, and there was no sign of the carnage that was to follow.

The visitors went further behind straight after the break without even handling the ball. Ealing upped the tempo and further tries came in the next 15 minutes to put the game out of the Vikings' reach at 30-7.

The Vikings rallied and briefly. De Jager charged down a kick on halfway and raced away but was hauled down five metres short. In the 70th minute Thorpe was on the end of an exhilarating move by the backs to score his 12th try of the season. Holt's conversion attempt hit the post.

Ealing scored four tries, one converted, in a devastating final 15 minutes as the Vikings' heads inevitably dropped.

In the first half they showed they could compete with the best, but they were unable to maintain such a high level of performance throughout the full 80 minutes.

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