Vikings bring the curtain down on a successful season under new coach
- Credit: Archant
North Walsham home game against Old Priorians on Saturday marks the end of a successful season for the Vikings – their first under head of rugby James Brooks.
Following his arrival in the close season the aim was a top-four finish, a target achieved with games to spare.
Whatever the result this weekend, that position is unassailable and will be Walsham's best since returning to London One North in the 2013-14 season.
The most recent away game, two weeks ago at Saffron Walden, which resulted in a single point win thanks to a late long-range penalty from Jake Duffield, was due to a dogged display by a side showing seven changes from the previous week.
This week's selection should be somewhat easier for Brooks, with some key players making their return – but equally he might want to reward some of those who stepped up.
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Prop Acky Downing, who picked up a back injury a month ago, might need a bit longer in order to be fit for the Norfolk Cup final. If so, then Jonny Masters could continue in a starting role. Certainly due to return is hooker Tom Browes, who missed the last game. In the back five, Will Hodgson could return at No8 but equally Brooks could use him in the centre where he started the season.
In the backs there is still some doubt over the return of outside half Matt Hodges who picked up a knee injury against Letchworth. The original assessment was four weeks out, but he could well be another who is given an extra week or two to get to full fitness. If he does not make the squad then the successful young duo of Will Findlay and Jake Duffield will most likely continue their half-back partnership.
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As regards the remainder of the back division, Brooks has to decide whether to stick with Ethan Benney and Jon Younie, who stepped up at Saffron Walden, or bring back Jordan Mustard and Mike Braans, who were unavailable for that one.
After a shaky start to the season, Old Priorians are ninth in the table mainly due to an inability to string more than a couple of wins together, but have always been well clear of the relegation zone.
The Raiders are hoping Old Priorians II will be able to travel to Scottow for a friendly.