Colchester 10, North Walsham 3 – Division 1NE leaders given a thorough test by battling Vikings

James Knight on the ball for North Walsham at the height of the blizzard.Picture: HYWEL JONES

James Knight on the ball for North Walsham at the height of the blizzard.Picture: HYWEL JONES - Credit: Archant

North Walsham took a losing bonus point against the league leaders, with head coach Nick Greenhall disappointed not to have had a victory, following a stirring team performance in difficult conditions at snow swept Colchester.

Debutant Michael Braans had a couple of early runs on the wing, and the back row of Chris Godwin, Wayne Williams and Chalk Hill Brewery man-of-the-match Mike Rouse tackled their socks off as the blizzard intensified.

The Vikings had adapted to the weather better in the first quarter, but were being pushed off the ball in the scrums, before Colchester number three James Mitchell was driven over the line for a try which was converted by David Higgins.

Will Hodgson made ground in the centre, but the home forwards always had at least four men rapidly to the ruck at the breakdown.

On 29 minutes the referee called both teams to the changing rooms for an eight-minute break while the pitch markings were swept clear of the driving snow.

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Ryan Oakes continued to get clean line-out ball, although throwing in accurately remained difficult as the snow turned to rain, and the teams went in at the interval with the home side 7-0 ahead.

The second half saw Mark McCall on at tight head and Tom Knight at blind side come on to rebalance the scrum and take a couple of strikes against the head.

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Higgins missed a place kick for the hosts as Matt Oakes and Hodgson kept up the tackle rate and then Henry Dewing hit a successful penalty, before Colchester came back to apply pressure on the Walsham line, resulting in a yellow card for the visitors for repeatedly not releasing in the tackle.

Higgins converted a penalty from 20 metres whilst the Vikings were a man short, and Walsham were unlucky not to score from a take and drive to the line, being penalised for an accidental offside as the maul progressed.

There appeared to be no serious injuries after such a gruelling encounter, although Tom Coller aggravated a back problem, and the Vikings look forward to hosting bottom side Woodford at Scottow on Saturday.

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