Rugby round-up: North Walsham face tough test at Saxons; Norwich in no mood to be caught out

Jonny Wheater in action for Norwich against Wanstead last weekend Picture: Andy Micklethwaite

Jonny Wheater in action for Norwich against Wanstead last weekend Picture: Andy Micklethwaite - Credit: Archant

North Walsham's easy win over Amersham & Chiltern a week ago was to a degree disappointing – but they can expect a sterner test when they travel to Southend Saxons in London One North.

Having struggled to get the win in the away fixture there was a feeling that the side would have to prove to themselves and their supporters that they would address their shortcomings and win what they expected to be a tough encounter.

Unfortunately the visitors came with what on paper seemed to be a below-strength side and quickly found the pace and intensity too much, picking up the injuries that caused the referee to call time just after the hour mark.

It is likely to be much different at Southend, a club that were regular opposition for about 20 seasons, until they were promoted to a higher level in 2007. Fixtures were resumed this season after they were relegated at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. They have had a decent season, winning 10 of their 23 fixtures and would have been higher than the eighth spot they occupy had they not lost games by just two or three points.

Having had an easy ride last week the Vikings should have few injuries to deal with and unless any players have other commitments it would seem unlikely that coach Johnny Marsters will interfere with a winning side.

Diss, the division's bottom side, are at home to Sudbury, who are three places above them in the table.

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London 2NE

Norwich head to relegated Basildon for their final away game of the season. Having been promoted back into a league they occupied for many seasons, they will drop back straight away having won only one game.

Norwich will be keen not to provide them with a morale-boosting win so close to the end of the season, particularly given Norwich's indifferent away performances. With nothing left to fight for but pride, Basildon could prove a dangerous adversary if Norwich don't perform.

With Jonny Payne unavailable, Conan Hoey moves in to nine and the backs have a mixture of youth and experience. Andy Hamilton plays at seven with Dave Micklethwaite still filling in at eight for the injured Laurence Austin. They have a strong bench of Josh Wilson, Jake Wharton and Mike Lawton.

Captain Matt Selby said: 'It was a highly competitive game against Wanstead last week, that went right to the wire. We showed great character to come away with the win, which we were not managing to do at the start of the season.

'Basildon's league position is not one we can take for granted, having struggled away from home in recent games. We will be looking for another strong performance and to consolidate our position as having the best defensive record in the league.'

Director of Rugby David Everitt added: 'With the Wanstead game we knew that we would have to be disciplined, controlled and stick to the game plan that Lee Parry had prepared and the players did this in an excellent game. The problem the team face this week is over-confidence and complacency which they must not let happen, together with a determination to put in good individual performances to build on towards the cup final against North Walsham. With the Lions beginning to show their real potential, places in that cup final game are up for grabs and Lee will be looking to see who really wants that shirt.'

Eastern Counties 3

Third-placed Holt travel to Thetford still in with a chance of promotion if they gain the maximum 10 points in their last two games.

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