North Walsham 33, Braintree 0
- Credit: Archant
An impressive performance in atrocious conditions saw the Vikings run out worthy winners against a Braintree side that had won six of the last eight.
The win looked inevitable once the Vikings took a 14-point lead on the half hour but, outclassed in the first half, Braintree performed much better after the break.
With Ipswich losing at Woodford the Vikings now lead London 2NE by 18 points with just 20 left to play for and will clinch promotion if they win their next league fixture at Old Streetonians on March 23.
The wet day called for tight controlled rugby and the forwards duly obliged.
They dominated the scrums, frequently disrupting the visitors' ball, regularly made ground through driving mauls and won more than their share of line-outs. Special mention must be made of Mark McCall and substitute Dan Goodrich who both operated with pin-point throwing accuracy.
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Early on it seemed the Vikings might struggle, giving away a string of penalties. The tide soon turned and in the 10th minute they scored. A neat kick by Lee Sandberg forced a line-out 15 metres out. Leon Davies soared high and a driving maul took Pena Sokia – who was making his 100th appearance – over with Henry Dewing converting.
The home side dominated the rest of the half but they were met by some outstanding defence, whilst inevitably retaining possession in the mud was difficult.
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At one stage they camped on the Braintree line for fully six minutes but just could not score. They stuck to their game plan though knowing that pressure would turn into points.After a 10-minute break for an injury to referee Nigel Williams the Vikings' persistence was rewarded. Danny Berghan, who had an impressive all round game, burst through on a 30 metre run and when he was tackled Keith Fowles was on hand to dive over for a converted try.
Right on half time it became 21-0. The Vikings wrecked a Braintree scrum on the latter's 22 and, after some quick recycling, Jack Hoyles picked the ball off his toes to ghost past four defenders before releasing in the tackle for Sokia to score his second, Dewing converting.
The game was very different after the break as Braintree dug in. With the ball becoming increasingly difficult to handle there was little continuity and the game was littered with stoppages.
Most play was between the 22s but, save for two spurned penalty opportunities, Braintree never looked like scoring. The Vikings' defence stood firm, with flankers Gerald Hegarty and Luke Hickey prominent.
With 10 minutes left and the game seemingly at a stalemate, the Vikings scored with their first concerted attack of the half to secure the bonus point. Goodrich was driven over after good work from Matty Norfolk-Clarke, Adie Ball and Fowles. The scoring was completed in the final minute when Will Hodgson was on the end of a grubber kick by Dewing, who then kicked his fourth conversion.