Matt Hodgson leads dominant North Walsham to Senior Cup final victory over Diss
- Credit: Steve Adams
North Walsham reasserted their position as kings of the Norfolk rugby world with a dominant performance to retain the county's showpiece trophy at the inaugural Woodforde's Big Rugby Day.
The Vikings went into the game as favourites having comfortably retained their status in London One North this season, finishing seventh after an excellent start of 10 wins in 13 games ran out of steam.
Diss were looking to end their campaign on a high at the event at Crusaders RUFC after a second season of narrowly missing out on promotion a step lower in the league system, finishing third in London 2NE.
After a scrappy start to the match, with hot temperatures ensuring an end-of-season feel to proceedings in the early stages, Walsham took control thanks to some trickery from impressive fly-half Matt Hodgson.
The teenager sold a dummy and jinked through the Diss defensive line to stretch for the line but missed a conversion from out wide to leave the score at 5-0 in the 18th minute.
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Diss fly-half Jack Peacock hit the post with a 30-metre penalty and Walsham had a try ruled out for a knock-on before the experienced Vikings pack drove over for a forwards try in the 30th minute, with flanker Ryan Oakes seemingly at the bottom of the pile.
This time Hodgson made no mistake with the conversion to push Walsham 12-0 ahead – the first of five conversions for the student on a day when he would end with 20 points to his name.
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The north Norfolk side put their foot on the pedal after the break though – as head coach Nick Greenhall looked to make sure the trophy stayed in the Scottow trophy cabinet in his final match in charge.
Lively work from scrum-half Shane van Vuuren, after the Walsham pack dominated at the scrum again, led to Hodgson diving over for his second try just two minutes into the second half.
Replacement prop Aki Downing bulldozed his way through to make it 24-0 five minutes later and further tries from winger Wayne Williams and van Vuuren in the closing stages took advantage as the game became stretched.
There was little Diss could do to resist the rampant Vikings as Walsham grabbed the bragging rights again with a powerful performance to run out 40-0 winners.
Vikings coach pleased with 'special' performance
Victory in the Norfolk Senior Cup final was particularly sweet for North Walsham coach Nick Greenhall, who is moving on from his long-time club this summer.
The former centre made his debut as a player for the Vikings during the 1994-95 season and has been at Scottow for much of the time since.
'I thought it was great, absolutely brilliant,' Greenhall said. 'I thought the lads, all of them, threw a lot of energy at what they did, were very passionate, the skill levels were high and I really enjoyed watching them.'
The Walsham coach had asked his team to step it up at half-time though, with the score still at 12-0.
'The set-pieces were very good but the ball on the field was what we wanted and second half, we spoke about it at half-time, we tried to keep the ball on the field a lot longer,' Greenhall continued. 'We tried to keep Diss under pressure and make it hard for them by keep moving the ball, a lot of running and that's exactly what happened. The second half was more special than the first for me, in the way the boys reacted to that. They kept the ball on the field and there were some great agility and great skills out there.
'Credit to Diss for backing up the defensive effort, they kept them out a lot of the time, but the Walsham boys I think were pretty special.'
Losing 40-0 made it a tough afternoon for Diss but scrum-half Jamie Burroughs said finish third in London 2NE still allows his team-mates to head into the summer in a positive mood.
'A really pleasing season, prior to Christmas we were playing some really good stuff and dropped off a bit after Christmas,' Burroughs said. 'But a really enjoyable season and hopefully we can go forward from here.'