Walsham relegated, Holt hopeful
The ups and downs of the rugby world are being experienced by North Walsham and Holt.
The Vikings of North Walsham were relegated from the National League on Saturday after losing 44-13 at Bracknell. Despite playing some spirited rugby, it was not enough to keep them out of the bottom three.
But Holt kept their promotion hopes alive, and dented the hopes of old rivals West Norfolk, when they won 13-7 away in Eastern Counties Division One.
It leaves them needing a win in their final two matches, including the re-match against West Norfolk, to secure a place in the top two.
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Bracknell 44, North Walsham 13
North Walsham were relegated from the National League on Saturday after losing to a well-drilled Bracknell side by six tries to two.
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Despite losing to the same opponents as a week ago by a bigger margin, Walsham played with spirit and at times with some panache – but it was not enough to keep them in with a chance of finishing outside the bottom three.
The Vikings will now join Diss in London 1 North next season.
Mark McCall was back as captain following a recent broken right forearm, and together with Stuart Loose and John Pymm in the front row he set up a stable scrum for the afternoon. Walsham were attacking the opposition ball much more vigorously than of late but still giving away far too much possession by poor kicking out of hand.
Bracknell scored first with penalties at five and 13 minutes, both converted by Ben Nowak. Following a break over halfway by Nick Austin in the centre, Shane van Vuuren ran to just short of the line before being well tackled, but sharp backing up by Mike Henry, playing more freely at No 8, resulted in a try, converted by Jake Harris. This gave Walsham the lead for the only time in the match at 7-6.
Bracknell player coach Darian Uys touched down in the second quarter, Nowak converting, to put the hosts back in front and two minutes later Tom Coller and Bracknell open side Michael Clarke were yellow carded after punches were thrown.
Lee Sandberg set up repeated phases of attack with good handling and miss-moves between Jack Hoyles, Austin, and Harris on the opposition 22 metre line, but the defence allowed no progress. Even with runs and kicks over the top, by Henry Dewing on the wing, and Rhys Davies-Horne coming into the line, further Walsham scores were proving elusive. And just before half-time, Bracknell No 8 Nico Maybury scored under the posts, Nowak converting, to make it 20-7.
Four minutes into the second half, Clarke scored a try for Bracknell, converted by Nowak. Ten minutes later Maybury got his second, not converted this time. In the meantime Tim Weber was on for Pymm, fitting in well to the Walsham front five, later joined by Tim Mason, on in the back row for Henry.
Bracknell substitute Luke Batten went over at 59 minutes, the try being converted by Nowak to bring the tally to 39-7.This spurred the Vikings into a sustained period of pressure near the opposition line, resulting in numerous penalties and the sinbin for Bracknell centre Nowak.
Sandberg came off, van Vuuren going to a successful spell at scrum half, and Pat Reed came on to the wing in his stead. Coller and Gerald Hegarty still had their hands full with the Bracknell back row, while Leon Davies and Chris Kent remained prominent in broken play.
Following a pick and drive by Mason, Kent scored a try, converted by Harris, bringing the score to 39-14. With 11 minutes remaining the impetus swung back in favour of the home side, No 5 Andrew Ball getting their final touchdown, the conversion coming back off the left upright.
Attention is now focussed on the Norfolk Cup game at West Norfolk on Wednesday (8pm).
North Walsham Under-17s reached the final of the London Division Bowl yesterday when they won 29-5 at Brentwood. Toby Fletcher (2), Max Moore, Harry Carver and Nick Moore scored the tries, with Harry Barratt adding two conversions.
West Norfolk 7, Holt 13
Holt travelled to North Wootton to play old rivals West Norfolk in the first of two league meetings with them.
Holt would need to win in order to keep their play-off hopes for promotion alive. The host's ground is one where Holt have not won in many years, therefore the jinx needed to be put to bed.
The weather was cloudy, with the rain having stopped, leaving a cross breeze over the pitch, which was in good condition. Holt played with the wind and slight slope from the start and immediately showed their opponents they meant business by keeping possession during the early stages and although off target with a penalty after four minutes, kept up the pressure.
The reward finally came after 13 minutes, when Allen put his side ahead with a penalty 0-3. Holt were playing good open rugby, with everybody playing their part and this was further rewarded after 24 minutes when Allen kicked his second penalty to increase the lead to 0-6.
Following this the home side did make a sortie into Holt's half and their left winger was close, but the defence held firm and the attack was resumed. However the hosts made another sortie into Holt's half and this time, following a line-out and driving maul, scored a converted try to give them the lead 7-6, rather against the run of play after 29 minutes. This set back inspired Holt back onto the offensive and Graham Ilsley was close following a charged down kick and then with play switching to the other side of the field, Hill appeared to have scored.
But unfortunately the try was not given and from the ensuing five-metre scrum, Holt were not able to score the all important try. During the dying moments of the half, they were off target with another penalty attempt and with the whistle going for the break, Holt must have been wondering where the illusive try was going to come from, considering the possession they had enjoyed for the majority of the half.
Holt needed to begin the second half maintaining the possession they had enjoyed in the first and to wipe out the one point deficit. Apart from an early West Norfolk attack, the visitors swept up the field to maintain their dominance in most phases of the game and to regain the lead. A penalty chance went begging after 15 minutes and it was not for a further nine minutes before Holt earned the try for which they worked so hard.
A driving maul took Holt over their opponent's goal line for Graham Ilsley to gain the touch down and with Allen adding the points with the conversion; the lead had been regained at 7-13 with 16 minutes left to play. There was the opportunity to kick a penalty to the corner, but instead the kick at goal was off target and it still left the visitors with 11 minutes to add to their lead.
West Norfolk had other ideas and finally broke the stranglehold and spent the last minutes of the game attacking Holt's goal line, especially as the visitors had been reduced to 14 men with a yellow card being issued. However, despite this set back, Holt's defence was equal to the occasion by keeping their line intact and then a couple of clearing penalties drove the attackers back.
The final whistle went with Holt worthy winners, though not by the margin they would have preferred, at 7-13 and going into third place in the table over Cantabrigians and two points behind West Norfolk, who are second.
This victory also laid the jinx of not having won on this ground for several years. Next Saturday, Holt entertain Old Walcountians in the next round of the RFU Junior Vase and victory here would take them one step closer to Twickenham for the final.
There are two more league games to play, both at home, against leaders Stowmarket and second placed West Norfolk. In order to ensure a place in the league play-off, both need to be won. A tremendous challenge for the club.