Improved show - but Vikings still let it slip
Tony MarcantonioNorth Walsham 15, Portsmouth 15: At long last North Walsham managed to end their run of defeats and if the result was not the win they desired they should take pride in the fact that they played infinitely better than the previous week.Tony Marcantonio
At long last North Walsham managed to end their run of defeats and if the result was not the win they desired they should take pride in the fact that they played infinitely better than the previous week.
However, having done more than enough to win the game while scoring two tries and keeping their own line intact, the Vikings must look at the season-long problem of a lack of discipline that handed Portsmouth the penalties that enabled them to share the points.
The usual rack of changes including the return of Alex Soutar, Pena Sokia, Adie Ball and Leon Davies coupled with the speedy recovery of Mark McCall and Bruce van Poortvliet - a tribute to the hard work of the physios - giving the side a more balanced look than of late.
Walsham got off to a sluggish start, conceding penalties in the first couple of minutes, and the Portsmouth outside-half James McSeveny secured the first points for the visitors, increasing the lead to six shortly after.
Justin Loveridge failed to pull three back but Walsham were starting to move the ball around. Rhys Davies-Horne then quickly put Shane van Vuuren away down the left but the winger was just forced into touch. From a penalty line-out on the right Davies-Horne put Ball into space, the centre punching through the defence before Iain Young applied the finishing touch. Loveridge converted to put the Vikings in front but just before the break he failed to increase the lead with a kickable penalty.
Half-time saw the return to action after a seven month injury lay-off for flanker Chris Kent and his performance showed no sign of rustiness.
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Rhys Davies broke to within five metres but his desperate offload fell short of a teammate and the ball was hacked up field. Walsham conceded a penalty and with it the lead.
Although Portsmouth never once looked like crossing the Walsham line they kept the pressure on and the home side were fortunate not to go further behind when McSeveny pushed a kick wide. Grateful for the let off Walsham produced their best rugby and Van Poortvliet was relishing his role behind the pack twisting and turning through tackles and getting to within five metres a couple of times. Pressure brought a five metre scrum and a disciplined drive gave Sokia the chance to pick up and dive over. Loveridgeapparently simple kick hit the post and failed to cross the bar.
Portsmouth made a couple of changes which boosted them up front but Rhys-Davies took on the kicking duties to extend Walsham's lead. The home side failed to capitalise on their lead and were forced onto the back foot, McSeveny claiming three more points with a beautifully struck drop goal and, with five minutes remaining, his fourth successful penalty to ensure the draw.
Walsham really deserved the points from this game but once again it was the penalty count that proved to be their undoing.