Norwich only have themselves to blame in defeat at Saffron Walden
- Credit: Archant
Norwich's search to rekindle their early season form continues after they did everything possible to keep their hosts in the game, something that the Essex side gratefully accepted.
Norwich had much the brighter start and enjoyed the majority of territory in the first half where utter dominance in the scrums suggested that a relatively comfortable afternoon of possession should have been in store, with prop Matt Selby causing all manner of problems for his opposite number. Had the lineouts functioned as they normally do, things may have been a whole lot easier.
Norwich's cause was not helped by the loss of Mark Fernie after 13 minutes with a recurrence of a hamstring pull. He was replaced by George Pope somewhat earlier than the 44-year-old had hoped for. Norwich scored the first points from one of their dominant scrums wide out on five metres as Laurence Austin picked up at the base and dived over. The conversion was narrowly missed.
A knock-on in front of the posts then led to a home scrum and Saffron worked the ball through the hands to exploit an overlap on the left and score in the corner.
Norwich replied with another destructive scrum on five metres, with the ball being fed to Nick Austin to score by the posts, with JC Brown converting.
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Another botched restart put pressure on the visitors and Saffron seized their opportunity again, working through the phases and creating space for their backs to score in the corner. With the conversion missed Norwich held a slender two point lead at the break.
Saffron Walden dominated the second half but mainly through Norwich handing them the opportunity to do so with missed penalties to touch, poor lineouts and not sticking to the game plan.
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Good pressure from the hosts earned them a penalty in front of the posts and they took the lead for the first time in the match. Then, from a lineout in the Norwich half, Saffron drove through midfield before feeding their backs and scoring in the corner. The kick was missed but Norwich were now playing catch-up rugby and conceded a penalty on halfway that Saffron converted to effectively put the game out of reach with time almost up.
Norwich had a late flurry to illustrate how they should have been playing all game and could have earned a losing bonus point. They will consider themselves unlucky not to have earned a penalty try when Saffron offended less than five metres from their line over and over again to prevent the score. That said, given that the referee had indicated that they were in the final play of the game, and couldn't win, they should have kicked one of the penalties on offer to secure the losing bonus point.