North Walsham 104, Stevenage 7
- Credit: Archant
The Vikings extended their lead at the top of London 2 North East to 10 points with this 16-try demolition of bottom placed Stevenage at a bitterly cold Scottow.
The visitors, who are already doomed to relegation, were completely outclassed in all aspects of the game and, save for when they were gifted a try, never looked like scoring.
It was a day for statistics with Will Hodgson scoring five tries to make it 14 for the season, while Henry Dewing kicked 12 conversions to bring his points tally for the season to 325.
The Vikings, whose line-up included scrum half Lee Sandberg, returning to the club after nearly two seasons, went ahead with the first of Hodgson's tries after seven minutes. This followed a marauding run from Dom Roberts and quick hands by the backs. Dewing converted but Stevenage immediately drew level with a converted try.
No Vikings player claimed the kick- off and the ball bounced into the arms of an astonished Joe Butcher who scored under the posts, Dan Gwilliams converting.
The home team poured forward and five minutes later Hodgson weaved and muscled his way past four defenders for another converted try. Jack Hoyles was next on the score sheet after selling an outrageous dummy, and on 25 minutes the try scoring bonus point was secured when Hodgson completed his hat- trick. Despite the scoreline the Vikings were not yet at their best. The forwards were in total control at the set pieces but were getting slow ball at the breakdowns and the passing lacked precision.
The Vikings then upped the pace and tightened things up. The forwards, with Leon Davies, Ben Campbell, Chris Kent and Andy Tibbatts particularly prominent, began to punch holes in the visitors' defence with some storming runs before releasing quick ball to the backs. Freddie Henley-Hunter scored following a move which began on the home 22 from a kick off, and tries for Dewing and Shane van Vuuren quickly followed to make it 45-7 at the interval.
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The Vikings' dominance continued after the break as they served up some scintillating running rugby to score eight tries in 25 minutes from Kent, Tibbatts, two more from Hodgson, two from Chris Godwin and a second from both Hoyles and van Vuuren. Four came direct from kick offs without their opponents touching the ball or making a meaningful tackle. Faced with the home side's superior fitness and technique Stevenage just could not cope.
The final 15 minutes was quieter with the Vikings guilty of overcomplicating things and some slack passing. They eventually notched up their century when Luke Hickey was on hand to take advantage of a dreadful defensive error.
With six games left the Vikings can take a huge step towards the title on Saturday when they visit Ipswich, their main challengers. The Suffolk side, which lost at Scottow 30-21 in November, will clearly be a very different proposition to Stevenage and, whilst taking confidence from a job well done this week, the Vikings will have to tighten aspects of their game.