CS Rugby 1863 23 North Walsham 24 – Late drop goal earns Vikings the win
- Credit: Hywel Jones
North Walsham Vikings showed some steely resolve to open their London 1N campaign with an impressive away win against a side who for the past five seasons have been in the league above.
Having lost a 14-7 lead, the visitors looked to be in disarray 10 minutes into the second half at 23-14 down. That though was the end of CS's scoring and, after a converted try left them two points behind with 20 minutes to go, the Vikings survived a yellow card and intense pressure before Matt Hodgson capped an impressive debut with a drop goal three minutes from time.
The Vikings, whose squad included just eight of those who played in last season's final game, took an early lead through a Will Hodgson try converted by brother Matt. This followed some slick passing and a patient build-up, recycling the ball eight times. They continued to look the better side but, 10 minutes later in their first attack, CS took advantage of weak tackling to draw level with a try from Guy Van den Dries, which Tom Hodgson converted.
CS then conceded a penalty from the kick-off; Matt Hodgson's kick hit the post only for CS to be penalised again five metres out. In stark contrast to the lineouts where they struggled, the Vikings were dominant throughout at scrum time, so they took that option: twice the referee penalised the home pack and the Vikings chose to re-set, but they then offended themselves and the position was lost. The Vikings continued to press forward and after Ashley Speight and Tom Williams had combined well, Niko Rokodinono stormed over for a converted try.
Gradually CS came into the game and, with the Vikings seemingly losing concentration in defence, two penalties made it 14-13 at the break, rather flattering the hosts.
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CS started the second half strongly and within 10 minutes were 23-14 ahead; Hodgson kicking a penalty and Anthony Lavea scoring a converted try. Sixteen points conceded in 20 minutes would be the end for many sides but, with James Knight and Williams providing calm leadership, the Vikings clawed their way back. Midway through the half they again showed patience before skipper Knight scored their third converted try to cut the deficit to two.
The final quarter was full of whole hearted rugby. Down a man the Vikings' pack did well defending a series of scrums and lineouts and Freddie Henley-Hunter showed his defensive qualities, twice getting back to extinguish attacks.
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Back to full strength, the Vikings created some probing attacks with Knight and Henley-Hunter close to breaking through before, after another patient build-up, Matt Hodgson slotted his 30-metre drop goal. CS were still not beaten though and they severely tested the Vikings defence before the final whistle blew.
Head coach Nick Greenhall was delighted, saying the side had shown great character and teamwork to come through a torrid second half. Scrum-half Greg Kirkham was named as Chalk Hill Brewery man of the match.
This was a most encouraging first game for the Vikings. Last season yielded only two away wins and they had a habit of fading in the second half, so the significance of an away win in which they came from behind should not be underestimated.