Late rally not enough to save Norwich
BASILDON 29, NORWICH 16: Norwich lost for the first time in six games and will look back with regret on a first half performance that effectively sealed their fate.
The long absentee list led to the return of 46-year-old Haydon Cocker at full-back for his 538th first team appearance and the welcome return of Jon Snowling following knee surgery and Dan Coltman from injury.
Norwich scored within three minutes with a Rob Micklethwaite penalty but the scrum took some time to adapt to the numerous enforced changes and they found themselves under pressure for most of the first half.
Basildon took advantage of some weak tackling to respond with an early try. They had a very simple game plan and executed it well using their big pack to good effect, as when grinding their way into the Norwich 22 to second up their second try.
Norwich had some very promising periods with excellent incisive running by Jonny Wheater. But so often the moves broke down through errors or impatience.
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Micklethwaite landed another penalty to put Norwich back within reach, but Basildon responded in kind to lead 19-6 at half time.
The second half saw Snowling and Coltman take to the field and both made their presence felt. The scrum had now stabilised and Norwich applied consistent pressure. They looked certain to score from one particular period but a crucial handling error allowed Basildon to not only clear their lines but take play back deep into Norwich territory, where they seized on a lineout error to snatch their final try.
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For the last 20 minutes it was clear that Norwich were fitter as the big Basildon pack tired. Snowling, stationed himself in an unfamiliar left-wing position, went over in the corner for a try and collected his second late on while Wheater was in the sin bin for handling on the floor.