North Walsham 5, Ampthill 42

After last week's heroic performance at Dorking, hopes were high that the Vikings could spring a surprise against fourth placed Ampthill.

At half-time, with the deficit just nine points, those hopes still looked realistic, but they were then ruthlessly extinguished by the visitors in an impressive second half display.

Ampthill, keeping the ball in or close to the forwards, were soon in the ascendancy and for a spell including seven scrums and two line-outs, were camped in Walsham's 22. They came away with nothing as the home defence held out superbly.

The Vikings then began to mount some attacks as the game became more even. Jack Hoyles burst through on halfway and went on an elusive 30 metre run but his pass out of the tackle was dropped.

Soon afterwards Gerald Hegarty and Shane van Vuuren followed up a clever kick from Lee Sandberg to trap the defender close to the line but Ampthill cleared.

Ampthill went ahead on 25 minutes through a long range penalty by Daniel Pointon. The Vikings were soon back on the attack and an outstanding penalty kick from almost on halfway by Harris gave them a line-out close to the line, but after conceding two more penalties Ampthill escaped unscathed when the Vikings themselves were penalised.

Five minutes before the break Pointon added a second long range penalty. Ampthill dominated the rest of the half territorially and, on the stroke of half-time, Pointon dropped a goal to make it 9-0.

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Injuries forced Walsham to make changes at half-time. Barry Frost and Tim Mason replaced Jamie Burroughs and Mark McCall respectively with Mike Henry moving from the back row to hooker.

Three minutes into the second half came the turning point in the game. Spotting an overlap, the Vikings were trying to run from their own 22, but a breakdown in communication presented Paul Davis with the simplest of tries, Pointon converting.

Ampthill then showed why they are unbeaten since October and have failed in only three games to gain the try scoring bonus point. The Vikings nearly got straight back into the game but Adie Ball was well tackled just short of the line before two more converted tries in five minutes left them with a mountain to climb.

First, after a series of penalties, Tristan Wati was driven over from a five metre line-out and then Kieron Davies scored when the Vikings were unable to control their own ball at a scrum on their line.

Standing 30-0 down with just over a quarter of the game left, the home side tried hard to stem the flow. The ever dangerous Hoyles scored a fine individual try for Walsham in the 65th minute, but there was no denying the visitors, with tries for Jonathan Raven and Stuart Riding in the final 10 minutes, with Pointon adding one conversion to take his personal tally for the afternoon to 17.

Vikings should take heart from their first half display when they matched a side that could well go on to achieve promotion. They now have a run of five games against teams in the middle or lower parts of the table, and they need some wins to pull away from the relegation zone.