London 1 North: Diss 3, Thurrock 10
Diss gave league leaders Thurrock a good run for their money before being edged out by two late tries.
With Diss out to show that their heavy defeat at Thurrock early in the season was out of character, and the visitors eager to confirm their credentials as title challengers, it was always going to be a match of high intensity and so it proved, with a tough battle from the first minute to the last.
With a number of enforced changes, the addition of the experienced Tim Groom provided a front five platform that in the early exchanges Thurrock found difficult to counter. Their strengths were in the ability of their three quarters to run at speed and threaten the Diss defence from any position.
But Thurrock hadn't reckoned on the Diss pack's tenacity in being able to grind down the opposition, using the rolling maul to devastating effect. This had an unsettling effect on Thurrock as they could not create the platforms necessary to allow the free flowing rugby they are used to.
This frustration led to Diss being awarded a number of penalties, one of which resulted in a yellow card. Deaglan Hall, taking advantage of the missing player, was soon driving forward through the middle of the field. Once again Thurrock conceded a penalty which Chris Beaird converted with aplomb. There were no more scores in the first half.
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The second half began as the first, with the Diss pack driving the larger Thurrock pack backwards, allowing Rickie Holt time to give the ball out to Seward.
The expansive game that Diss are getting better at week after week does have its weaknesses and it showed a number of times, with some dropped passes allowing the Thurrock backs time to regroup. It was from one such counter-attack that Pete Bray, showing a surprising turn of speed, was able to tackle a Thurrock player on his way to the line. Mistakes by Diss also led to more tension around the ground as Thurrock missed two penalty kicks.
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As in previous weeks Diss counter-attacked with equal ferocity and tenacity, in particular the running of Will Farrar and Fraser Hall at centre causing some consternation.
As the minutes ticked by there was a belief amongst the crowd that Diss could win this by the narrowest of margins – but it was not to be.
A strange decision by the official allowed the Thurrock wing to burst through, passing inside for their No 4 to score with two minutes to go, to the disbelief of the home crowd.
With seconds to go Diss were encamped on the opposition try-line, and if they had used the same rolling maul skills seen earlier on in the game, instead of passing it out wide, the result might have been a different one. But with seconds remaining Thurrock scored the second try of the game to confirm victory.
Diss will have learned from this defeat but with Letchworth looming next week Phil Sharpe's work as coach will not be made any easier.