Beccles 17, Norwich 11
- Credit: Archant
It was a day of celebration all round as Beccles recorded one of their best wins of the season – and Norwich secured promotion to London 2NE.
Norwich arrived knowing a win would confirm second place – while favourable results from elsewhere could also send them up if the worst happened at Beef Meadow.
And at the end of a tough encounter they were grateful from a little assistance as Old Brentwoods beat Upminster and Wisbech claimed a superb victory over Cantabrigian.
With Norwich's two promotion rivals beaten – and a losing bonus point in the bag – they were home and dry – and could turn their attention to winning the 3NE title, with second placed South Woodham Ferrers currently lying two points adrift with a game in hand.
Having played at a higher level than their big city neighbours for the last two seasons the Bulls were keen to show they were still a force to be reckoned with on Saturday – and that is exactly what they did.
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From the kick-off both teams were fully committed in defence, cancelling each other out in the opening quarter. Beccles began to gain ascendency in the set pieces with big performances from skipper Reece Ling and Adam Edwards but Norwich looked dangerous in the three quarters.
After half an hour Beccles No 8 Rob Wilson broke the shackles of his close markers and was able to finish off a series of drives in characteristic fashion, being unstoppable from five metres out. A penalty just before half- time from Rob Micklethwaite reduced the deficit to 5-3 at the break with all to play for.
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The Beccles management urged the home side to remain patient and continue to play through the phases and attack space to keep Norwich on the back foot. With Chris Hinsley dominant at the front of the line-out, the Bulls could also play for territory despite facing the breeze.
Marcus Sale at scrum-half had his finest game of the season, looking fast and powerful as he broke from the base of a number of rucks to get behind the Norwich defence. After a sweeping move along the three quarter line to left field Sale was able to dive over for a great team score.
From quickly recycled ball fly half Wade showed good awareness, allowing Callum Roberts to orchestrate attacks in the wide channels. A text book move allowed Roberts to fire out a perfect missed pass to Long who was able to put John Hoffman in for a score on the right wing.
The conversion gave Beccles a 17-3 lead with 20 minutes to play and once again an elusive bonus point for the Bulls looked on the cards.
Norwich regrouped and Beccles were penalised under the posts to allow Micklethwaite to kick a penalty.
Realising a bonus point was in reach Norwich went for it and eventually the pressure told and they were able to score in the left corner through David Byrne to secure the losing bonus point.
If Beccles had taken their bonus point opportunities this season they would still have been in promotion contention and this is something they will work on next season.
Norwich came off the field disappointed but were soon able to uncork the champagne.
In a league which has seen evenly matched sides putting in variable performances Norwich have had the one quality essential in a long campaign – consistency – and they thoroughly deserve their promotion.