North Walsham expecting a tough challenge in London after home romp
- Credit: Archant
Having had a reasonably easy ride against Luton last week North Walsham face somewhat stiffer opposition at Eton Manor on Saturday.
The London side, who many marked down as possible front-runners in London 1N this season, started well with five wins and a draw from their first six games but have since gone off the boil.
But they will be no pushovers, as evidenced by last week's game when they led Colchester at the break but were made to struggle when they lost a centre to the sin bin.
Despite what was pretty much a textbook performance last week, the one thing that coach Johnny Marsters cautioned against, a slow start, was unheeded as Luton took the lead and at Tuesday's training session he again emphasised the need for a fast start.
With no fresh injuries the coach will probably restrict himself to minor changes. The front row is unlikely to be changed but there is likely to be a spot on the bench for George Youngs, back from a break, as Dane Canning cannot travel. Having had two weeks off recovering from a dead leg Roydon Miller will be back fighting for a place in the pack but the current line-up have performed so well Marsters is unlikely to make changes.
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In the backs Donavin Dejongh has gone to Kenya with the Army and his place at full back is likely to go to Mike Braans with James Knight replacing centre Joe Milligan who is being rested after picking a non rugby related injury.
North Walsham (from): L Brown-Bates, W Swart, N Rokodinono, T Browes, D Bird, M Travers, R Oakes, C Godwin, J Duffield, M Hodgson, D Smith, J Knight, A Dunn, J Riley, J Cherry, M Braans, G Youngs, V Vurewa, R Miller, B O'Hickey.
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Diss, who have lost 18 of their 19 games so far this season and looked doomed to relegation, travel to mid-table Southend Saxons. Diss will be looking to build on the positives from last week's 48-14 home defeat against Amersham & Chiltern, when their young side competed well for long periods.
With their five-game winning streak ended by leaders Woodford last week, Norwich head to South Woodham Ferrers, a place where they have traditionally struggled.
Their hosts have had a difficult season, but have run many sides close and are fighting for survival, currently standing third from bottom.
Theo Elliott is still not available and neither is Phil Buckley but Jonny Wheater returns, meaning some positional changes. Conan Hoey moves to 10, Mike Lawton to 14 and Chris Parrott to 15 while Dave Micklethwaite returns to the back row.
'It was a very frustrating game against Woodford,' said director of rugby David Everitt. 'For 60 minutes we competed with them and in fact had the upper hand. Our defence was outstanding and we kept them under pressure for long spells. However in the last 20 minutes we did not use the wind advantage and paid dearly for trying to play rugby in our own half.
'Saturday gives the squad an opportunity to address the problems that they caused themselves and put in an 80 minute performance they can be proud of.'
Southwold, enjoying a solid first season at this level, will be looking to further consolidate their mid-table position when they travel to Wanstead, the side immediately above them in the table.
There's another big match at the top of the table on Saturday with second placed Wymondham welcoming Ely to Barnard Fields.
Ely went top last weekend by beating Thurston but they failed to pick up a bonus point, meaning their lead is only three points.
Following a full analysis of last week's disappointing 18-16 reverse at Holt the coaching team of Tom Armes and Allan Rutherford will keep faith with a similar squad.
Ollie Charlish, who gave an exemplary display of throwing at the lineout at Holt despite the windy conditions, is an injury doubt. Either Lee Bartlett, returning from a long-term injury, or Ollie Colman, an outstanding utility front row forward, will come in if required.
Holt are level on points with Wymondham after last week's win and crucially have a game in hand on both their title rivals. They also have a tough game tomorrow at fourth-placed West Norfolk.
In other matches Thetford host Ipswich YM and Fakenham entertain Thurston.
Beccles host Hadleigh in a crunch fixture in the Shield. The visitors currently lead the table by three points so second-placed Beccles need a win to keep their promotion challenge on track, having won their opening match against Colchester III last week. Norwich Union travel to Newmarket after being handed a walk-over by Cottenham Renegades in their opener.
In the Salver North Walsham Raiders, who took the spoils against Bury st Edmunds III last week with a Dan Goodrich conversion in the final minute, are at home again, this time to Ipswich II, while Norwich Medics travel to Cambridge III.