Win gives huge boost to Vikings
North Walsham 27, Bishop's Stortford 13
A rousing second-half display, which produced four tries, saw the Vikings overwhelm fifth-placed Stortford to achieve an outstanding and much-needed victory which lifted them off the bottom of the table.
It all looked different at half-time when the visitors held a flattering 13-0 lead, but once Walsham went ahead they never looked back and 13 points in the last 10 minutes sealed the win over a side that had handed them a 58-point drubbing three months ago.
Early on the game was a stop-start affair, with both sides struggling to retain possession. In a foretaste of what was to come the back row of Gerard Hegarty, Alex Harrod and James Elliott was already showing up well, while the whole team were defending tenaciously, making their first-up tackles count.
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Walsham gradually began to look the more likely to score and a break by Jack Hoyles, who had a superb game, took play deep into Stortford's half. A penalty was won but Barry Frost pushed it wide.
An excellent kick by Hoyles then pinned Stortford back on to their line but the position was lost when the Vikings were penalised.
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On the half-hour Stortford went ahead through a Tom Coleman penalty. The Vikings were straight back on the attack, only for the visitors to extend their lead when a rare gap in Walsham's defence opened up for Jimmy Rea to score.
Stortford then had their best spell and, on the stroke of half-time, Will Freeson scored after the Vikings had won a five-metre scrum against the head, only to lose control of the ball.
Walsham tore into action after the break and got their reward within five minutes with a real team try. Following a line-out, the maul was driven 20 metres before the ball was moved at pace along the line for Ewan Wilson to score. Jake Harris converted from the touchline to cut the deficit to six.
For the next 15 minutes it was end to end, with scoring opportunities for both sides, although the home defence was looking the more secure. With the game entering its final quarter Coleman missed a penalty but moments later the mood of the increasingly vociferous home crowd changed from relief to joy when the Vikings went ahead.
Harris kicked deep into Stortford's half and the back row were up to harass the defenders into conceding the penalty. Sandberg took a quick tap, weaved his way towards the line, and passed to Hoyles who evaded three defenders to score under the posts, Harris converting.
Five minutes later Coleman missed another penalty when Stuart Loose was yellow carded. Despite being a man down, the Vikings piled forward and Harrod was hauled down close to the line. With 10 minutes left a Harris penalty made it 17-13 and soon afterwards Harrod got his try after good work from Harris and Adie Ball.
The hunt was on for the fourth try and the bonus point and it duly came deep in time added on. The pack destroyed a Stortford scrum, won clean possession and after a strong run from Elliott and four drives Loose piled over.
The team and their supporters will be hoping this result will give the Vikings the confidence to turn their season around. Certainly it has given them a huge boost in advance of the Diss game on Saturday when more than local pride will be at stake.