Braintree 3, North Walsham 55
North Walsham moved nine points clear at the top of London 2NE after securing their eighth win in nine games in impressive fashion.
This week marked the club's 50th anniversary and it was apt that on Thursday there were in excess of 50 players training. This has given a much sharper edge to the midweek sessions and with it much more competition. Players are much less likely to take a week off and this is translating on to the pitch.
Walsham started brightly in the driving rain, keeping the ball tight and recycling to create chances further out. When the first came, James Knight forced his way over and Henry Dewing converted to start an impeccable day. His 15 points took him past the 100 mark for the season.
Shortly after Braintree were penalised and the three points added but they quickly responded with a penalty of their own from halfway to make it 10-3. Despite the weather both sides were trying to run the ball but the aggressive defence of Walsham was presenting more turn over opportunities for them to run back.
A scrummage was taken against the head for Pena Sokia to feed Knight who ghosted through the defence to touch down. Walsham continued to play disciplined rugby and from a catch and drive on the 22 the pack controlled the ball impeccably and it was fitting that Tom Coller was able to round off his superb catch and touch down. The conversion was added to end the half at 24-3.
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From the restart Walsham upped the pace and started to break through in open play. Shane Van Vurren took the excellent decision to stand the ball up rather than take it on and within seconds the forwards where around him to take it on 20 metres. Emerging with a big smile and holding the ball aloft was Leon Davies, celebrating only his fifth try in nearly 120 games which was converted.
The backs were now starting to exploit openings and some good handling and support saw Adie Ball outpace the defence for another converted try. Then, from a scrum 10 metres out, Andy Tibbatts picked up and crossed over for another try and conversion.
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The rain was now driving down harder than ever but the best two tries were scored as the whole team combined to run them in through Ball and Will Hodgson. Neither was converted in the gathering gloom.
The best news of the day then filtered through after the game. The seconds had recorded a 34-0 win over Diss while Ipswich had lost at home to Woodford, moving the Vikings well clear of their Suffolk rivals.
A fourth minute try for Jamie Forrester set the scoreboard ticking for the Raiders and further tries from Dean Blyth, converted by Forrester and Harry Downing put the half-time lead at 17 points. After the break Freddie Henley-Hunter, Forrester again and Matty Norfolk-Clarke all crossed.