North Walsham 8, Bracknell 27
North Walsham's hopes of avoiding relegation took a blow when they lost to Bracknell by three tries to one in a rearranged fixture – and but for a dogged defensive effort the score may well have been higher.
The Vikings remain six points behind Basingstoke and 10 points adrift of Havant, with three games left to play. Bracknell stay in the upper half of the table, and with the next away game against the same opponents, prospects for Walsham look slim.
The Vikings started brightly, with Alex Graf-Grote and Ryan Healey looking sharp in the three-quarters and Jake Harris kicking a penalty after five minutes. However, Bracknell, playing 15 man rugby, struck back seven minutes later with a try by scrum-half Shaun Kitchin, converted by centre Ben Nowak.
Jack Hoyles then regained the lead for Walsham by touching down out to the right, Harris being unable to convert – and that was as good as it got for the hosts.
Kitchin scored his second try for Bracknell five minutes later, Nowak missing the conversion and on the half hour Nowak succeeded with a penalty to ease the visitors into a 15-8 lead.
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The opposition's catch and drive was proving difficult to defend, although Walsham having so many defenders standing off at the mauls probably did not help. The Vikings' heel at the scrum was beginning to come very slowly, and what possession they gained was often lost in the tackle or was penalised when in an attacking position.
Bracknell captain Johnny Mirza then broke for the line, allowing wing Ian Burch to bring the score to 20-8. Nowak was unable to convert this and also missed a penalty attempt just before half- time.
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Both sides continued the second half playing an expansive game but Bracknell were keeping better possession, with the back-up players coming on to the ball at pace from deep, crossing the gain line with each move. Jamie Burroughs and Jack Hoyles in the Walsham centre put in a sterling defensive effort to keep the scoring chances down.
Hoyles had to leave the field on 61 minutes, Chris Godwin reverting to his old position in the centre, while Tim Weber joined the adjusted scrum. The visitors were now playing with sevens style interplay, while Dom Roberts, having probably his best game for Walsham to date, was still making big hits and carrying well.
Into the final quarter Bracknell were held up over the Walsham line, and following the ensuing five metre scrum substitute Nico Maybury was driven over for a try, converted by Nowak, bringing the score to 27-8. That's how it stayed, with Nowak failing with a penalty nine minutes before time, the ball coming back off the left upright.
Now is the time of the counter-ruck, with most attacking chances coming from turnover ball. Hence a supreme forward application is required for the remainder of the season.