Norwich 19, Beccles 16
Norwich moved four points clear of title rivals Beccles in London 3NE with a crucial victory at Beeston Hyrne.
This was a game Beccles should have won but Norwich, with some outstanding defence in the second half when they were very much under the cosh, were rewarded with the points which secured their position at the top of the table.
Beccles conceded four early penalties to allow Norwich to get on the front foot in the early stages. JC Brown, Norwich's young scrum-half, took a quick tap from a penalty to see the ball spread wide but the chance was butchered with a poor pass to second row Simon Darby who would have scored.
Beccles then made their first visit into Norwich territory and were rewarded after 16 minutes with a penalty converted by Luke Wade.
The lead was not theirs for long, as Norwich in a sweeping move scored the best try of the game, with the ball being moved right and then quickly recycled left for left wing Jordi Walker to race in under the posts. Brown added the simple conversion to give Norwich a 7-3 lead.
Minutes later another sweeping movement which was kept alive by a deft pass from centre Dougie Greenwood saw right wing Jay O'Brien put away to go over halfway out. The conversion was missed.
Beccles did not help their cause when forward Paul Wilson was yellow carded straight from the restart for barging off the ball. At this stage it was all Norwich, who seemed able to carve openings at will and it was no surprise when fly-half Nick Austin, wriggling out of a couple of tackles, went over under the posts. Brown had no trouble with the easy conversion.
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It was to Beccles' credit that they came back at Norwich and were rewarded with a penalty which Wade converted to make the score 19-6.
Despite getting a second yellow card, Beccles managed a try scored on the short side by their fly-half after Norwich had been marched back 10 metres after a free-kick was awarded against them. The try was scored from the subsequent penalty which was taken quickly. It was not converted but it gave Beccles the fillip they needed just before half-time when Norwich were threatening to run away with the game.
The turning point for Norwich came just after the interval, when the hosts' influential No 8 David Byrne was yellow carded for what looked like an accidental trip. Norwich were immediately under pressure and with Beccles restored to a full complement, Norwich were forced to defend their line desperately.
After 16 minutes Beccles reduced the arrears with a well taken try which they richly deserved but they could not manage the conversion. At this stage the visitors looked the likely winners with Norwich hanging on by their finger nails.
Norwich's cause was not helped by the fact that every time they got into enemy territory they either coughed up possession or gave away a penalty.
They were forced to defend for their lives, which they did very well to secure the points which kept them at the top of the table.