North Walsham expecting a tough test at Shelford after opening day romp

North Walsham new boy Ethan Sikorski makes his presence felt in the league opener at Woodford Pictur

North Walsham new boy Ethan Sikorski makes his presence felt in the league opener at Woodford Picture: HYWEL JONES - Credit: Archant

Having got the new London One North season off to a great start with a resounding win at Woodford North Walsham will be expecting a much tougher challenge on Saturday when they visit Shelford.

Jess Underwood on the attack for Lakenham Ladies in their first match of the season against Southwol

Jess Underwood on the attack for Lakenham Ladies in their first match of the season against Southwold Picture: JAKE MARSHALL - Credit: Archant

Their next opponents had what can only be described a calamitous 2018-19 season which culminated in relegation but have regrouped and recruited heavily.

Last week they came within two points of beating Colchester and the final scoreline of 25-24 is a clear sign that these two teams will be contenders for honours.

Vikings coach Johnny Marsters should have few decisions to make as it seems that there were no more than the usual knocks and bruises to deal with. Flanker Chris Godwin was removed from the action early with bruised ribs but is a resilient character and it will be a surprise if he is not in the squad. The other possible doubt is Dan Bird who is due to move house over the weekend.

Any other changes are likely to be on the bench, Will Swart having made a case for a return with an outstanding performance for the Raiders last week.

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Last week's competitive outing at Woodford with a below strength side will have done the Raiders a power of good and they should be closer to full strength for their first competitive game of the season at Norwich Lions in Greene King Eastern Counties One North.

North Walsham Vikings: D Canning, T Knight, T Browes, G Youngs, R Oakes, D Bird, J Cherry, C Godwin, D Dejongh, J Duffield, M Hodgson, J Riley, C Anthony, J Milligan, D Smith, J Knight, J Younie, E Sikorski, W Swart.

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London 2NE

There is a big local derby to look forward to as the London 2NE season gets under way, with Norwich taking on newly promoted Holt at Beeston Hyrne.

For Norwich newcomer Ruairidh Bottomley comes in at scrum-half after some impressive pre-season games and Jake Wharton on the flank in place of the injured Paul Micklethwaite. With Jason Hynd, Richie Ruddick and Jonny Payne on the bench the hosts will have a wealth of experience at their disposal.

Director of Rugby David Everitt said: "As with all local derbies it will be a tense affair and we know there will be a large Holt crowd encouraging their team along. We are confident that our preparation puts us in a good place to start with a win but it will be a close game and composure and discipline will be needed in front of a noisy crowd, who will want the bragging rights for their team."

He added: "Holt have bounced back into our league after one season in the league below and will want to get their campaign off to a good start so we must not take them lightly. Selection has been based on performances in pre-season and training so the team shows few changes from last season."

Holt head coach Phil Sharpe is also looking forward to the game.

"After a very long and hard season the players are keen to enjoy this coming season with their own brand of open rugby," he said. "We expect nothing short of a tough challenge against an always strong Norwich team who will look to play their own expansive rugby."

Holt's second and third teams, who have also earned promotion, are at home to Norwich Union firsts and seconds respectively.

Diss will have a new face at the helm when they open their campaign with a home match against Wanstead.

Vastly experienced former North Walsham, Southend and Ipswich coach Nick Greenhall is the new man in charge and has been handed the challenge of rebuilding following a painful 2018-19 campaign in Division One North which saw the team lose 25 of their 26 games.

"I have been brought in to give the club a helping hand, regroup if you like, and that is something I am used to from my work at my previous clubs," he said.

"The majority of last year's team is still here and we have brought in five or six new faces and it is now a case of playing some games and seeing where we are. I am pleased with the squad we have here but it's too early to start setting targets. That can wait until a bit later in the season.

"What I do know is I have come to a really good club, with excellent facilities and great people behind the scenes. Last season was a difficult one but now it's time to look forward and everyone is really looking forward to the game against Wanstead."

Newly promoted Wymondham start with a long trip to Romford and Gidea Park while Southwold are at home to Ipswich.

London 3EC

Newly promoted Beccles open their campaign with a tough trip to Ely, who finished third last season after a titanic battle with Holt and Wymondham which went to the final day.

Elsewhere Fakenham host Wisbech, West Norfolk entertain Cantabrigian and Crusaders travel to Thurston.

Women's Rugby

Lakenham Lionesses beat Southwold Swallows 30-17 in their first fixture of the season. Their tries were scored by Dani Pluckrose (3), Chloe Halliwell, Jess Baker and Sian Keeping while Hannah Ellis was player of the match.

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