North Walsham 39 Thurrock 5 – Vikings plunder points to keep pressure on at the top
- Credit: Archant
The Vikings produced probably their best performance of the season to overwhelm second-placed Thurrock in London One North.
With Thurrock having suffered just two defeats and on a run of four wins, a close game was expected – but it was never that.
Ten points up after as many minutes, the Vikings controlled proceedings for virtually the whole match, with the forwards inexorably grinding their opponents down to obtain quick, quality possession. They defended well in all areas and attacked incisively, consistently keeping the ball alive.
The victory was all the more creditable given the conditions – a strong wind blew straight down the pitch and playing against it was incredibly difficult, but they mastered the conditions superbly to score three tries in each half.
The Vikings started quickly, unsettling Thurrock with some strong tackling to pin them back. Matt Hodgson kicked an early penalty, soon followed by a Chris Godwin try, converted by Hodgson from the touchline. The try was an early indication of the pack's control: Ryan Oakes won a Thurrock lineout deep in the latter's territory, the visitors were penalised at the subsequent maul, the Vikings kicked to the corner, the lineout was won and Godwin was driven over.
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Thurrock rallied as the Vikings conceded penalties. But they retained their defensive shape, their quick line speed harassing the visitors into handing errors.
Man of the match Oakes, as he did throughout, won clean ball at a lineout 15 metres out. The forwards drove on and when the ball was released, centre Wayne Williams went through three defenders for a converted try. Five minutes before the break it became 22-0 as Tom Williams shrugged off a defender to score.
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Much of the half-time touchline conversation was about whether the Vikings had enough points. Surely, now wind assisted, Thurrock would pose a threat.
But the threat never materialised, the Vikings regularly rampaging forward into the wind, punching holes in Thurrock's defence. As the first half progressed Thurrock's scrum had increasingly creaked, and the front row of Aki Downing, Tom Browes and Tim Weber got further reward 10 minutes after the break when a Thurrock prop, unable to cope with their pressure, was yellow carded. Two tries in six minutes, both following speedy attacks from deep, put the Vikings 34-0 ahead with 20 minutes left. Freddie Henley- Hunter scored after a deft pass out of the tackle by Williams, then Ethan Benney went over after a move strongly featuring the Hodgson brothers. Ten minutes later Henley-Hunter scored again.
Finally, Thurrock got on the scoreboard with a try from Fraser Kidd.
Injured club captain James Knight saying: 'This was a brilliant performance with everyone again working really hard for each other.'
The Vikings are fourth, but just four points separate the top six. They now have two away games against top-seven sides but the quality of this performance should give them lots of confidence.