Walsham battle to draw

North Walsham RFC's first team visited Jersey and drew 20-20.After a couple of stuttering performances, North Walsham were determined that this would be the game that would kick-start their London One campaign.

North Walsham RFC's first team visited Jersey and drew 20-20.

After a couple of stuttering performances, North Walsham were determined that this would be the game that would kick-start their London One campaign.

And on their first trip to the Channel Islands they duly fought out a well deserved draw to record their first point of the season.

Coach Tim Malone's pre-match talk, brief and to the point, struck just the right note. “Front up,” he told his players. “Play for each other, make the opposition earn what they get and at the end of 80 minutes know that you have earned their respect.”

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Rarely can any Walsham team have followed instructions so closely. This was a performance to be relished by players and their considerable contingent of supporters alike. The local media had talked the game up as the biggest in recent Jersey rugby history, and the teams ran out to a crowd of around 700 on a hot cloudless afternoon.

Up against a much weightier pack, the Walsham eight showed that determination could more than equal bulk and never once conceded ground. Jersey took the lead with an 11th-minute penalty from Mitch Burton, Gideon Strydom equalising some five minutes later.

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A long-range drop goal attempt by Clifford slipped just wide but with well matched sides most of the play was in midfield until a good crossfield move by Jersey ended when their powerful Samoan centre Sam Tuia muscled his way in the corner.

Burton failed with a penalty attempt but on the half hour Tuia raised the crowd with a brilliant solo try from fully 60 metres. Burton's conversion took the lead to 12 points. Walsham maintained their composure and five minutes from the break were rewarded when Strydom went blind from a scrum 15 metres out and flanker John Kelly made the touchdown, Strydom adding the extras.

Walsham were forced to make changes at the break. Hooker Gareth Hoadley had played 25 minutes with what the club doctor suspected was a broken arm, happily ruled out after an x-ray, was replaced by Al Turner and Kelly (cut leg) by Iain Beck. Within seconds of the restart a quick tapped penalty set Rob Clymer away, feeding wing Tom Holt, a great side step opening the door for a touchdown. Strydom's kick, five metres in from touch split the uprights for a two point lead.

The home side struck back when their giant Samoan lock Talite Vaioleti burst through the middle of a ruck to score, Burton failing with what looked an easy conversion.

Back came Walsham. Strydom, having narrowly failed with a penalty attempt from the restart, made amends when he slotted the equaliser midway through the half.

Both sides, conscious that the smallest slip could lose them a point, seemed to adopt a cautious approach and kicked away a deal of possession in the latter stages, with both defences at full stretch.

At the final whistle, the Walsham players and supporters were exultant, while the hosts were more subdued, having dropped their first home point for more than a year.

Walsham do not make a man of the match award but there was universal acclaim for Tom Browes, making his debut as a late replacement at tight head prop.

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