North Walsham 0, Hertford 32
With two wins under their belts there is a buzz across the whole club, thankfully accompanied by a realism that the back-to-back games against the top three sides were unlikely to deliver many points.
The approach in training has been reassuringly pragmatic and positive, looking closely at how those valuable bonus points might be picked up.
Against second placed Hertford Walsham's cause was not helped by the late loss of the regular half-backs to illness and a call to international duty for Lee Sandberg.
The hosts elected to play into the wind that blew at a considerable tempo throughout the game.
They started brightly before a knock on gave a put in to Hertford, who were quick to move the ball to their backs. A well worked move seemed to be well marshalled by the Walsham defence until a slip on the greasy surface opened up a hole for James Storey to sear through. Almost at the line he was brought down by a wonderful tackle from Barry Frost but the support was on hand for the Hertford forwards to gather and drive over, Chris Rainbow touching down and the conversion being missed.
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With only seven minutes gone and the wind at Hertford's backs it did not auger well for the remainder of the half. However despite the rest of the half being played mainly in the Walsham third excellent defence and a dogged performance from the forwards restricted the visitiors to a couple of chances that were spurned.
Although competing in all areas Walsham were being totally disrupted in the scrummage, an aspect of the game that had been solid all season. As a result it was very difficult for either of the half-backs to get in a relieving kick or initiate a move on the front foot. On the stroke of half- time Walsham were penalised for holding on and a quick tap and go by Matt Hankin gained the inevitable extra 10 metres and a kickable chance, which Jack Mann put over to make it 8-0 to Hertford at half-time.
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From the restart Hertford adopted the Walsham approach and drove the ball up through their forwards. With quality ball coming back to their half-back Hertford were able to make prudent use of the boot and worked their way into the Walsham half and after six minutes had a scrummage close to Walsham's line. Somewhat surprisingly they were awarded a penalty try at the first put in but on the balance of the scrums to date you had to agree that the referee had made the right decision. Following the conversion Hertford now had a 15-0 lead.
As the game entered the final quarter, true to form Hertford delivered. Their superior fitness and physical strength came through and as gaps started to appear around the fringes they were able to drive play forward and offload to the supporting player. From a quickly taken penalty the ball was moved through a number of hands for Crompton to score in the corner. Gerard Hegarty, who had a fine game, was then yellow carded for handling on the floor and seemingly in appreciation of his contribution it galvanised the team and the ball was taken to Hertford at every opportunity. A couple of stirring runs by Aidie Ball had the crowd on its toes and it was clear nobody giving up.
Sadly Walsham were unable to score any points as a reward for their solid performance and Hertford took two more tries, with one being converted, to finish the game at 32-0.