Norwich have point to prove in derby clash with Holt

Tim Allen scores Holt's third try to leave Graham Ilsley the fairly simple task of converting to ear

Tim Allen scores Holt's third try to leave Graham Ilsley the fairly simple task of converting to earn a dramatic win against South Woodham Ferrers last week. Picture: Stuart Young - Credit: Archant

Norwich play host to Holt tomorrow in the final game of 2014 in front of what is sure to be a large pre-Christmas crowd at Beeston Hyrne.

Recent form has somewhat deserted Norwich who, after valiant performances against the two clubs they consider to be the strongest sides in the league (Diss and Campion), had a poor game against Saffron Walden last week that they know they should have won.

Following three straight defeats they will need to improve their performance levels if they are to have any hope of beating a Holt side who were boosted by a thrilling 19-18 win over South Woodham Ferrers at Bridge Road last week.

Norwich are wrestling with some significant injury and availability issues this week, with Matt Selby, Tom Lloyd and Joe Tennant all out of action, Stu Sepping doubtful and Si Darby, Chris Drohan and JC Brown unavailable.

Dougie Greenwood comes back in at flanker for Darby and Matt Girling starts at hooker, with Tom Whiskin moving to replace Selby at tighthead. Flanker Stuart Cameron returns to the squad on the bench with the ever reliable George Pope.

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Coach Jonny O'Brien will take a late fitness test and hopes to be fit to start at 10, releasing Chris Parrott to his preferred 15 slot.

O'Brien said: 'We have had a difficult time of late with our form dipping partly with having to cope with injury and absentee problems. Despite that, this is a good opportunity for us to get back into some sort of rhythm in front of a good pre Christmas crowd and finish the year on a high. The players know what they need to do and a local derby is always exciting and unpredictable. Holt will be sure to throw everything at us and we need to be ready to respond.'

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The two teams meet exactly three months after their first meeting at Bridge Road, which Norwich won 35-23. After their earlier encounter Norwich went on to top the league, losing just once, while Holt slumped towards the foot of the table, winning only once. That was until three weeks ago when Norwich began the losing streak that they will be anxious to halt whereas Holt have won two from three.

History shows that Holt won their first two league encounters in 2011/12 but since then Norwich have taken the upper hand, winning the last three matches. Last Saturday the Holt crowd acted like a 16th man as they got behind their team and they are hoping a large contingent will travel south to get behind the team.

Holt will make around six changes from the team that lost at home, with Rory Fryer looking likely to be added to the squad and brothers Graham and Dan Ilsley teaming up in the centre for the first time. Coach Ed Steed was set to make the final selection after conclusion of the match run through last night.

Holt Owls are in Eastern Counties 2N action, hosting Watton, and will feature the third Harrison brother, Henry and two 17-year-olds, Tom Harrison and Harrison Chapman.

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