Wymondham and Holt battle it out as London 3EC title race heads for thrilling climax
- Credit: Archant
The title race in London Three Eastern Counties is heading for a nailbiting finish, with three teams right in the thick of it.
Wymondham have a three point advantage over their rivals but it is second placed Holt who are marginal favourites as they have a game in hand and know they will finish top if they win their final three fixtures.
With Ely also in the mix, level on points with Holt but like Wymondham having just two games to play, all the challengers know there is no room for error over the next three weeks as they take on teams lower down the table.
After a free weekend the league resumes next Saturday with Wymondham travelling to lowly Ipswich YM while Holt host near neighbours Fakenham and Ely visit Woodbridge.
They are all matches the high-flyers would be expected to win - but Holt head coach Phil Sharpe has been involved in the game long enough to know that it doesn't always work out like that.
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'We aren't arrogant enough to think that we just have to turn up to win these games,' he said.
'It is about focusing on our level of performance and making sure each one is spot on. If we play as well as we can do then hopefully we will win the three games and finish top. The lads have done superbly this season and are all really enjoying their rugby, which is what it is all about, but there is still a lot of work to be done.'
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Wymondham would dearly love to mark their first season at their new Barnard Fields ground with promotion to London 2NE and know all they can do now is make sure they win their final two games - and then hope for a slip-up. Finishing second might not be good enough, with a play-off game against a side from London Three East yet to be confirmed by the RFU.
'We have got a couple of away games left and need to make sure we pick up 10 points and see where we are then,' said head of rugby Dave Brunton. 'It has been a good season for the club, what with the new ground opening and the team doing well, and we are still in a good position, even though it's not in our hands. We recruited well in the summer, bringing in four or five new players, and the team has gelled together nicely. It's just a shame we lost both our games against Holt but they beat us fair and square and there is nothing we can do about that now.'
March 23: Ipswich YM v Wymondham, Holt v Fakenham, Woodbridge v Ely.
March 30: Thetford v Holt, Ely v Ipswich YM, Wymondham - no game.
April 6: Woodbridge v Holt, West Norfolk v Wymondham, Ely - no game.
North Walsham Raiders made it through to the final of the Norfolk Intermediate Cup with a hard- fought 31-24 win over a somewhat under strength West Norfolk side.
With the strong, gusty wind behind them the hosts went ahead in the third minute when Rob King crossed for an unconverted try.
Wests then hit back with a penalty and a breakaway try but in the final five minutes of the half the lead was regained and extended when first Tom Younie went in under the bar, Jake Duffield converting, and then the outside half took a quick tapped penalty to break the defence, touch down and convert for a 19-10 lead.
In the second half the Raiders had to deploy their defensive skills but nearing the end of the third quarter replacement Mike Braans send a superb pass to Duffield who again split the defence to score, with Will Minchin converting. West's persistence was rewarded when their pack piled over for a converted try but despite being a man down to the sin bin the Raiders continued to dominate in the set-piece and following a dominant scrum Duffield broke down the left to seemingly put the result beyond doubt. West kept going however and in the final minute their hard working pack drove over for a converted try.
The Raiders will face Holt first team in the final at West Norfolk on May 4.
Holt's seconds will also be in action at Gatehouse Lane after beating Wymondham 24-10 in the semi-finals of the Norfolk Junior Cup. Both sides kept the ball in hand in testing conditions and provided an entertaining game with six tries, with Holt's coming from Will Allen (2), Gareth May and Mathew Parfitt, two of which were converted by Louis Chapman.
Norwich Union were in action in the Eastern Counties Shield and returned to winning ways with a 22-15 win over Colchester III.
Union opened scored three tries in the first half through captain Simon Pitcher, wing Callum Slaughter and centre Dan Norgate, scrum-half Lloyd Davis adding a conversion. Colchester replied with two unconverted tries to keep in touch.
Well into the final quarter replacement scrum-half Alex Sinclair sniped at the base of a ruck to take the score to 22-10 before Colchester had the final say from a quick tap penalty.