Rugby: North Walsham 20, Stourbridge 12

It's taken 15 games to get there. The Vikings have stuttered, won ugly, scraped a win, lost by the odd point, but not once have they played with the conviction and fluidity that they produced on Saturday in beating Division Two opponents Stourbridge.

It's taken 15 games to get there. The Vikings have stuttered, won ugly, scraped a win, lost by the odd point, but not once have they played with the conviction and fluidity that they produced on Saturday in beating Division Two opponents Stourbridge.

Two seasons ago they played with confidence and beat the Midlanders on their own pitch.

Last season they played Esher from the same league, were overawed, froze and were comprehensively beaten so the question was: "Which Walsham would turn out this time?"

From the start of the season Jon Curry, faced with a week-in, week-out injury list, has struggled to find the right combination.


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On the evidence of this performance all the tumblers dropped in the right order. This was a 15-man performance of quality, everyone played for everyone else, they all followed the script and reaped the result and a place in the fourth round.

The only thing they lacked was a kicker, four players having six attempts without success, but on the day it counted not a jot.

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Stourbridge, it seems from their local press reports, also had selection problems and Curry's counterpart Neil Mitchell had drafted in fringe players with the warning that this was their chance to either show what they could do or face the possibility of finding another club at the end of the season.

He had also highlighted the Walsham pack as a threat, but also saw it as a challenge. He was right to view it in that light.

From the outset, apart from one early penalty conceded and the final 10 minutes, the Walsham eight were in control as they played as one.

Some, however, deserve special mention. Rossouw was pinpoint with his throwing to an imperious Mike Howard, Pistone was terrier-like in his tackling round the fringes, and Lourens Steenkamp, in for skipper Stuart Loose, was a ruthless scrummager.

The home side were soon on the attack and a multi-handed passing movement nearly resulted in a try.

Young struck a penalty which passed the far post with inches to spare and then, against the run of play, Stourbridge produced their first decent move which gave them the lead.

Flanker Bruce Thomas won turnover ball which was quickly sent left, where, with a with a two-on-one advantage, some neat passing ended with prop James Tidewell touching down and Ally Bressington adding the extra points.

Undeterred, the Walsham pack won the ball on the right, quick hands took it along the line to Young, who made good ground. His well-timed pass went to Andy Thorpe, who was unstoppable from 10 metres out.

Virtually camped in the Stourbridge half, Walsham were now at their entertaining best without making the breakthrough as the visitors defended well.

For the second time Stourbridge showed that, given a sniff of a chance, they could be dangerous when they capitalised on a poor clearance kick on the half-hour, moved right and Bressington cut through to make the touchdown. He failed to kick the conversion but the lead was up to seven points and held to the interval.

Curry made one change at the break, putting on Will Farrer in place of Young, who had taken a knock, while Mitchell made two, Bressington and Thomas making way for Freeman and Griffiths.

Farrer went into the centre, partnering Adam Gowen, who was impressing on his debut, with Godwin moving to the wing.

Awarded a penalty in the first minute of the new half, Borrett took on the kicking duties, but his failure to convert this and a later conversion were the only blemishes of an otherwise masterly performance, his kicking out of hand in the second half calculated and well executed.

Pinned in their own half, the Stourbridge defence were put to the test, but after 10 minutes their lead was down to two points when a forward drive from a line-out ended in a try for Rossouw.

Within a few minutes the move was replicated and this time Sam Herrington claimed the score, his seventh of the campaign.

With the slender lead in their advantage there was no sitting back for Walsham, who kept up the pressure with every attempted breakout by Stourbridge negated by some superb defence. Rossouw could have claimed a second, but the ball was stripped as he crossed the line.

With 10 minutes left Walsham won a five-metre scrum close to the corner.

Steenkamp got a nudge on to turn the angle of attack, the ball squirted to the feet of Seve and the Samoan strolled the short distance to the line.

Walsham lost Howard with a "dead leg", Will McLintock replacing him, while Stourbridge used the last of their seven-man bench, Jim Jenner.

The arrival of their vastly experienced forwards coach finally injecting some urgency to their pack and for the final few minutes Walsham were under pressure, pinned in their own half, but proved that it is possible to defend without conceding penalties.

The win was great, but the manner of it was even more encouraging and now for the first time with the season approaching halfway, Curry is in the enviable position of having players in competition and contention for places throughout the side.

The draw for the fourth round is today when Division One clubs enter the competition but the more pressing business of gaining points and maintaining the league challenge at Rosslyn Park this Saturday will be the focus of the week's training sessions.

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