Letchworth Garden City 20 North Walsham Vikings 31: Vikings make hard work of away victory
PUBLISHED: 06:30 27 November 2017
The form book suggested a comfortable Vikings win but for the second successive match they struggled to put away a bottom four team.
An insipid first half display saw them 13-12 behind at the break, before three tries in 15 minutes took them into a 31-13 lead with a quarter of the game left. With the game seemingly won though they failed to enforce their clear superiority and allowed Letchworth back in for a needlessly edgy final 10 minutes.
The visitors started confidently and deservedly took the lead on 10 minutes, Tom Browes burrowing over from a driving maul. Then, not for the only time, they failed to clear the restart, ultimately giving Denny Francis the opportunity to kick a 30 metre penalty from wide. Letchworth began to show some attacking prowess and five minutes later Francis hit the post with a long range penalty. Midway through the half the home side went ahead: Vukinavanua Iferemi, a threat all afternoon, charging down a kick to score, Francis converting.
The Vikings were uncharacteristically sluggish. Slow to the breakdowns there were dropped passes aplenty and the penalty and turnover counts were heavily in Letchworth’s favour. Suddenly though they produced a great try. A 40-metre run by Chris Godwin took play into the 22 where quick recycling and quick hands took the ball to Chalk Hill Brewery Man of the Match Dan Smith who wrong-footed four defenders, James Knight converting. Ben O’Hickey took a nasty hit in the build up and was replaced by Lee Thomson.
From the kick-off Lachlan Brown - Bates went on a trademark 50 metre run but the good position he created was wasted by losing a scrum and lineout, both on their own put-ins. The game then drifted before a Francis penalty from halfway gave Letchworth their half-time lead.
James Brooks’ half time talk clearly worked, the Vikings upping the intensity significantly and within five minutes they were rewarded. James Knight ripped the ball from an opponent on halfway, Mike Braans spotted space and put in a great kick which, supported by a good chase, forced a five metre scrum. They then pinned Letchworth in their 22 before Ed Sampson scored, Thomson converting.
The Vikings were in control for the next 20 minutes as they forced Letchworth to concede penalties and Ryan Oakes and Todd Scotland both won home lineouts. Two contrasting tries, one converted, took them to 31-13. Roydon Miller made ground deep in Vikings territory to find Hal Riley who ripped through the defence in a 50 metre run, Harry Downing scoring. Then, from a textbook catch and drive, Browes scored his second. Between times their injury woes continued, Tom Younie coming off, Sampson moving onto the wing.
With 10 minutes left Oscar Robinson scored in Letchworth’s first meaningful attack of the half; Francis converting. It still looked as if the Vikings should pull away from the league’s bottom team but with Letchworth not losing heart the game then somewhat stumbled to its conclusion without either line being seriously threatened.
“We made hard work of it,” said Brooks. “We should have had the game won by half time but our physicality was poor in the first half.”
Good sides though win when not playing well, and this victory puts them up to fifth, a point off third place.