Can North Walsham clinch promotion?
PUBLISHED: 13:29 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:29 27 February 2020
North Walsham could clinch promotion from London North on Saturday afternoon – if the winds are in the Vikings favour.
A four-point win over Harpenden at Scottow would be enough - even if second-placed Old Haberdashers get a five-pointer, the lead will be 21 points with four games and 20 points at stake remaining.
But the 'P' word is unlikely to be bandied about too much: having faced strong opposition in Colchester and Sudbury over the past couple of weeks, the task does not get any easier.
Harpenden - first-time visitors to Scottow - are the only side who have denied the Vikings a win this season - back in November they secured a 31-29 victory with a late surge, coming from 29-17 down with 10 minutes remaining with two converted tries.
The visitors have performed well in their first season in the division with a 14/7 win/loss ratio, are a comfortable fourth in the table with 72 points and will clearly have their sights set on the play-off place so will consider this game crucial to their ambition.
Walsham coach Johnny Marsters was delighted with the result last week at Sudbury, a side whose style is very much like that of the Vikings. He will have players back from injury this weekend so changes are inevitable.
In the back line, centre Callum Anthony and full-back James Knight are fit to reclaim their shirts. The return of Anthony will be a relief to Will Hodgson who, in the interests of the team, moved from back row to the centre for the first time since September 18 and will be delighted to retake the No8 shirt.
With young James Cherry returning to University, Axel Hohneck will move to the flank. One known absentee from the back line, for the second week, is the versatile Donavin DeJongh, who has work commitments. There is some uncertainly about the availability of scrum-half Jake Duffield so Michael Mulhall is on standby.
Up front, prop George Youngs sat out the final half hour last week with a sore back but is good to go and Ethan Sikorski and Tom Browes, both unavailable last week, are among the replacements.
The game will be preceded by an ex-players lunch so there will be no shortage of knowledgeable support on the touchlines.
London Two North-East
Leaders Norwich travel to Wanstead, a place where they sometimes struggle.
Director of Rugby David Everitt says Norwich will have to be at their best if they are to come away with the points.
"Head coach Lee Parry and his team of coaches will need to re-focus the squad at training this week as Wanstead this Saturday are a side that have proved difficult in the past to beat on their home pitch where wins are hard to come by," he said.
"Our strength is in our defence, patience and our ability to deny the opposition quick possession they are looking for and then recycle the ball quickly for ourselves to use and attack the space that we have created.
"Wanstead usually have a robust set of forwards who will be prepared to stand toe to toe with us and try to dominate the contact area. Whoever wins that battle will win the game. As they sit towards the bottom of the table they will be eager for a win and topple the top team so we need to be wary of them if we want the result that we need."
Holt travel to Saffron Walden, who they narrowly beat when the Essex side visited Bridge Road in November.
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