Walsham’s amazing turnaround

Luton 18, North Walsham Vikings 32Christmas is traditionally the season of goodwill and pantomimes, and North Walsham entered into the spirit with a performance in two acts.

Luton 18, North Walsham Vikings 32

Christmas is traditionally the season of goodwill and pantomimes, and North Walsham entered into the spirit with a performance in two acts.

In act one they were the pumpkin and in act two they morphed into Cinderella's coach. For most of the first half they were like Father Christmas dishing out presents in the shape of penalties, five in total.

All were unnecessary as they were under no threat of conceding a score and each time Luton full back Keiron Davies slotted his kick to establish a solid if undeserved lead.

Following the relative performances of seven days previously one would have confidently expected Walsham to dominate from the start but they seemed subdued and allowed Luton to take the initiative and after just eight minutes the first three points were on the board.

There were some brief flurries with some decent rugby but by the end of the first half hour the Luton lead was up to 12 points thanks to Walsham's generousity.

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It was immediately after the fourth penalty that Chris Dermody, who again ran the show for Walsham, kicked a penalty close to the Luton line. Beck, who along with Howard was in fine form, took the catch and the drive, quick and straight ended with Luke Applin claiming the score.

Three minutes from the end of the first half Applin was yellow carded for foul play, Davies took the points and as the players headed for the dressing room the crowd, including a sizeable contingent of travelling supporters, were left to reflect on a half in which they had seen 20 points scored but barely five minutes decent of rugby.

So different were Walsham after the interval that the transformation was verging on the magical. No waving of a magic wand, just some sound advice from coach Steve Worrall.

Asked if he had read the riot act he said: "I was sorely tempted to but instead I told them to start playing with their heads and stick to what we had worked on during the week, and to their credit they did just that and the rewards followed"

Following Walsham's transgressions in the first half it was now Luton's turn to attract the referee's attention as the pressure began to tell and seven minutes from the restart they were penalised and Dermody took the points.

Tails up and the Vikings began to dominate. Applin won a turnover, Dermody threw a long miss pass to Thorpe who broke to within 15 metres before passing to the fast moving Clymer who reduced the deficit to two points. A now rare attack by Luton resulted in another three points for Davies, but Walsham struck straight back.

Andy Thorpe, enjoying the underfoot conditions, shook off three tackles to go close but it was the forwards who were making hay, with Howard, Woodhouse and Godwin all near to scoring. Some specialist coaching during the week had targeted the catch and drive and when a penalty was kicked to five metres it was taken up by Howard and Beck, with Applin making the touchdown to level the scores.

The final 20 minutes were nearly all one-way traffic as Luton tired and Walsham's pack, despite Joe le Roux - who had replaced Woodhouse - playing out of position, took control in the set pieces.

Swanepoel set Dermody away just inside the Luton half and after a long pass out to Thorpe the full back was unstoppable, his touchdown giving Dermody the easiest of conversions and with 13 minutes left Walsham had the lead.

Having realised that Luton had no defence to the catch and drive Walsham repeated the drill and Applin claimed his hat-trick, with Dermody converting.

Waksham had notches five tries, five points and for the second week the their try line was uncrossed. The transformation of pumpkin to coach was complete.