North Walsham 14, Barnes 27
North Walsham pushed promotion contenders Barnes all the way on Saturday before going down in the final quarter by four tries to two in a well refereed game of rugby at sunny Scottow.
As a result Walsham remain in the relegation zone – still six points adrift of Basingstoke, who were well beaten by top side Hertford – while Barnes lie one point behind the leaders.
The much vaunted Barnes three-quarters, including league top try scorer Luke Sayer, were negated by a youthful and enthusiastic Vikings squad.
Rhys Davies-Horne had a sparkling afternoon in the centre, well served by Alex Graf-Grote at 9 and a heavily bandaged Jake Harris at 10.Walsham showed much better handling and ball retention, with effective tackling and numerous turnovers.
The Vikings scrum had reshuffled after half an hour, with Chris Hamilton coming off and Gerard Hegarty coming on.
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The only score in the first period came four minutes before the break when Barnes right wing Sayer converted a penalty.
With their backs committing numerous uncharacteristic errors, and the score going nowhere, Barnes opted for a second half of forward rolling mauls. The score however remained at 0-3 until the final 20 minutes of the game. Ryan Healy was breaking well for the Vikings, and Tim Webber, on for Dom Roberts, was putting in some good counter tackles, while Henry Dewing swapped with Shane van Vuuren.
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Barnes centre Doug Tausili was gaining regular line-out field position with accurate touch kicks, and Walsham found the repeated catches and drives by the bigger Barnes forwards difficult to defend legitimately. On 57 minutes the ball was held up over the Vikings' try line. With continuing pressure first Mat Oakes and then Stuart Loose were sent to the sin bin.
During their absence Barnes No 8 Adrian Clements was driven over for an unconverted try and then, two minutes later, Walsham full back Barry Frost failed to gather an awkwardly bouncing kick ahead by Sayer, allowing Barnes scrum half Damian Hoo to snatch a second try, converted by Sayer.
Following another catch and drive Barnes substitute open side Simon Givens claimed another unconverted try, bringing the score to 0-20.
After this seven minute onslaught, Walsham fought back, Vikings' No 5 Chris Kent galloping over unhindered from 15 metres for his second try of the season against Barnes. Harris converted with a very good kick from wide out to make it 7-20. Four minutes later a break by Walsham No 7 Alex Harrod, playing his last game in the green and black, allowed a final pass to scrum half Graf-Grote who scored under the posts, Harris converting to make it 14-20.
With only minutes to go, Barnes set up a further rolling maul, Givens scoring the fourth try, and gaining the bonus point. Substitute Warren Gower converted to make the final score 14-27.
Captain of the day Stuart Loose finished by exhorting his troops to carry this game into the final four league matches against mid-table opposition, starting with the rearranged home fixture next week against Bracknell, when they will be hoping to make up ground on the two teams they will be targeting – Basingstoke and Havant, who also lost on Saturday.