North Walsham 7, Civil Service 18
North Walsham's hopes of back-to- back wins were thwarted by a dogged and disciplined Civil Service team who were worthy winners of a hard fought game.
At half-time, just 10-7 down, Walsham were still in contention, but in the second period they never looked like scoring. The visitors controlled the match for long spells and, but for a strong defensive display by the Vikings, their margin of victory could have been wider.
Clean, quick possession was in short supply for the home side, with the forwards coming off second best in the battle up front. They hardly helped themselves though. The penalty count was at least four to one against them and, with three players yellow carded, they spent almost 40pc of the game a man short.
The Vikings' line-up included Chris Godwin, making a welcome first start since breaking a leg in November 2009, and newcomer Stuart Dighton on the wing.
It did not take the visitors long to stamp their authority on proceedings. In a pattern that was to be repeated, the Vikings gave away a string of penalties which took play from Civil Service's 22 to a five metre line-out. They survived the drive from that line-out but, with John Pymm in the sin bin, there was an air of inevitability when, in the 15th minute, Scott Hadden scored a try under the posts which he converted.
The visitors extended their lead six minutes later with a Hadden penalty. Walsham, despite the back row putting in some big tackles, could not get any sustained possession. On the few occasions they achieved promising positions they either gave away a penalty or, on being awarded a penalty themselves, failed to find touch. Ten minutes from the break the Vikings had an escape when, after Lee Sandberg was sent to the bin, Hadden pulled a penalty wide.
That seemed to galvanise the home side but scoring looked beyond them until a moment of magic from Godwin. From the back of a ruck, he raced 40 metres, leaving four defenders in his wake, to score in the corner. Jake Harris' touchline conversion ended the half.
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Coach Nick Greenhall made a tactical change at half-time with Jack Hoyles, who started at outside centre, swapping positions with fly-half Harris. Probably feeling a little fortunate to be only three points in arrears, the Vikings started the half brightly but it was not long before the Service forwards reasserted their authority. The penalty count against the Vikings continued to rise and in the 50th minute Hadden slotted one over to make it 13-7.
Play was now exclusively in the Vikings' half and with the pressure mounting Leon Davies, who had an outstanding game, became the third player to be sin binned. Walsham continued to defend superbly but with 20 minutes to go numbers eventually told and Tim Wells scored a well worked try.
Back to 15 players the Vikings tried to up the pace but they just could not dent the Service defence. Substitute Dom Roberts made a memorable 30 metre run and minutes later he did well again when he got back to make a try-saving tackle. Fellow substitute Alex Harrod also led a breakout but that rare attack was ended by a penalty, which somehow summed up the Vikings' afternoon.
It was a disappointing defeat but Walsham's next two games are against fellow bottom three sides Diss and Basingstoke, both away, and victories really are imperative.