Leaders North Walsham facing tough test

Friday, November 16, 2012
2:35 PM

Following two relatively straightforward games against Stowmarket, North Walsham face what is without a doubt their most difficult task to date when second- placed Ipswich visit Scottow tomorrow.

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History between the clubs goes back several seasons but probably the best memory for some of the senior stalwarts is the Eastern Counties Cup final of the 1983-84 season when Walsham travelled to Humber Doucy Lane as underdogs and returned as champions following a 20-9 victory.

The most recent meeting was in the same competition at Scottow in the first round in the 2000-01 season, with Walsham winning 14-13.

The Suffolk side have had an almost identical season to the Vikings, having lost just one of their seven games, and the only thing separating them at the top of the table is the fact that the Scottow side have two more bonus points.

With third-placed Chelmsford – who entertain Holt tomorrow – six points adrift of Ipswich there is a tremendous amount at stake for both sides.

Having made changes last week and been pleased with the performance of players who stepped up from the Raiders, Nick Greenhall will be bringing back rested players. Mark McCall will return to the front row, Leon Davies to the second and Tom Coller and Chris Godwin to the flanks. There is a query over the No 8 slot with Andy Tibbatts away for a second week and replacement Danny Berghan having a shoulder injury.

Scrum-half Dean Blyth is fit again and should link up with Chis Borrett at halfback with Henry Dewing moving to either full-back or wing.

There could be a welcome return to Scottow for popular Fijian Pena Sokia, who has re-signed for the club following a two season break. Able to cover either the back row or centre, he will be a valuable addition.

After a free weekend Holt travel to Essex expecting a tough encounter.

“It will be a difficult game, Chelmsford are a good side and a good club,” said coach Ed Steed. “They have a lot of experience at this level and above but we will go in to it with confidence, as a side in form.”

With several players carrying knocks from previous games and fresh injuries being picked up by a couple of other players during training, the weekend off has proved beneficial to Holt, with physio Andy Siddall being able to get a number of these players back in to contention for selection.

As such, coaches Steed and Penny Chapman have been able to select a strong squad, with Ben Harvey stepping in at fly-half for the unavailable Tom Jackson and Tim Allen moving from the backs into the pack. This will allow Richard Justice to move from the pack to the wing to replace the unavailable Stuart Robson. Rob Gray is likely to continue at second row.

Despite their 15-8 victory over Enfield last time out Holt know they will have to raise their performance if they are to extend their four match unbeaten run – but Steed is pleased with the way things are going.

“We have sensed a change in the mind set of the boys over the last few weeks, with a growing confidence and determination,” he said. “They have shown that Holt deserve to be in this league and are not just here to make up the numbers.”

Lowestoft & Yarmouth entertain Enfield Ignatians looking to bounce back from a run of three straight defeats and a conceded Senior Vase tie.

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