Norwich beaten in tight rugby battle

Watched by a large crowd in the Beeston Hyrne sunshine Norwich opened their League Two North campaign with a narrow defeat at the hands of CivilService.

Norwich 12 Civil Service 19

Watched by a large crowd in the Beeston Hyrne sunshine Norwich opened their League Two North campaign with a narrow defeat at the hands of CivilService.

The strong defences set the tone for the first quarter of the match with a the fearsome forward battle developing and neither side gaining the upper hand. Neil Harris and Aaron Swanborough were establishing a domination that continued throughout the game.

Chris Sawford at scrum-half led his forwards with short bursts into the Civil Service pack and they carried the phases on with good effect. Matt Punter and Scott Norman were responsible for much of the successful support play but when the ball was released to the backs the attacking threat was either snuffed out by the Service defence or by crucial handling errors.

The deadlock was finally broken when Jonny Statham came into play to score the first try wide out. Aidy Ball was pressed into service as the place kicker but his conversion dropped a little short so Norwich led 5-0. Civil Service were not to be denied and expanded their game whenever possible to bring in their powerful runners. Their score came after the Norwich defence had been stretched a number of times. Ball and David Smilley had pulled off a number of try saving tackles before Oli Young was able to power through the beleaguered Norwich defence to score near the posts. Nick Chapman converted to make it 7-5 at the break.

The injury to Chris Sawford just before half-time was serious enough for him to be removed from the fray. With no obvious replacement available, Smilley moved to scrum-half and was replaced on the wing by Andy Webb. The Norwich pack continued its set scrum nomination and this led to Service conceding a penalty but Ball was just short with the kick.

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There was then a sustained period of pressure from the Civil Service which was helped considerably by Norwich failures to secure their own ball from the line outs. Finally the Norwich defence was breached for the second time when the backs and forwards combined to put Gethyn Deakins in for a try under the posts that Chapman again converted.

With 25 minutes to go the signs of a home defeat were there for all to see, but this young Norwich side is full of fight. Dan Simmonds was brought to replace young Andy Baughan and this helped to maintain Norwich set scrum domination although it did nothing to improve the line outs. It was after 36 minutes of the second half that Norwich forward pressure at ruck, maul and set piece saw captain Jon Bugg score in the corner. Ball converted with his most difficult kick from the touch line to bring the score back to 12-14.

The final five minutes were frantic with both sides throwing caution to the wind. Defences were forced into last ditch tackles but in the 40th minute Bent was put in for a try that McBride failed to convert but it secured the away win for Civil Service 12-19.