Romford & Gidea Park 18 Norwich 25 – Norfolk rivals battling it out in London 2NE promotion tussle
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Norwich and Diss are neck and neck at the top of the table after impressive weekend victories.
While Diss were beating Saffron Walden 52-31 at Mackenders, Norwich were bringing back the points from Romford.
Norwich were without one or two regulars, particularly in the front row where Peter Hosking was joined by veteran George Pope and youngster Ravi Dave, all of whom gave a very good account of themselves.
Although Norwich were often under pressure in the tight, they still managed, by and large, to get the ball away, thanks to some excellent work by the back row.
Norwich opened the scoring when a mix-up in the home defence saw the ball go loose and Nick Austin hacked it through and gathered the ball to score halfway out. JC Brown converted.
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Soon after this No8 Craig Dunbar left the pitch with a shoulder injury to be replaced by Nick Hunt. At this stage, although struggling in the scrums, Norwich were dominating all other areas, but could not convert pressure into points.
The situation was not helped when Hunt himself was injured and replaced by Nick James. Despite the disruption, Norwich were playing some good football and defending superbly. After a period of Romford pressure Norwich were awarded a penalty which Jay O'Brien kicked into the corner. From the ensuing lineout the ball was moved swiftly to Michael Campton-Smith, coming off his wing, and he made a lovely break to put right wing Martin Cullum over in the corner. The conversion was missed.
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As half-time loomed Romford attacked again and were rewarded with a try from flanker Dwayne Lin, who was prominent throughout. This was converted by full-back James McVeigh to make the score 12-7 in Norwich's favour. On the stroke of half-time Norwich were awarded a penalty, which Brown duly converted.
The second half was a stop-start affair, with several injuries disrupting play. Romford reduced the Norwich lead with a penalty after five minutes. Norwich then lost one of their most dangerous runners when Campton-Smith limped off with an ankle injury.
Norwich's fortunes were restored when centre Jonny Wheater cut a superb line on the Romford 22 to score under the posts. Brown added the simple conversion.
As so often happens, Norwich immediately gave away a penalty from the restart, which McVeigh kicked.
There was 17 minutes of injury time, during which Norwich kicked a penalty and in the dying seconds Romford scored an unconverted consolation try from second row Bamidele Coker.
The final whistle went on an entertaining contest which Norwich thoroughly deserved to win.