Brentwood 27 Vikings 10 Report from Sebastan Sutcliffe
No disgrace as Vikings go down to powerful Brentwood
The Vikings often threatened to take control in this competitive fixture in Essex, but Brentwood took the win in the end with a committed, organised team performance.
North Walsham began the match attacking down the famously sloped pitch – worth ten points a half according to coach James Brooks – but were unable to take full advantage in a half full of errors and penalties conceded.
When forcing Brentwood to defend close to their own try line, Aki Downing charged down a kick deflecting it up and then into his own arms for a simple try on five minutes; it seemed that the Vikings might be able to get well ahead with the slope’s help. However, this first score did not become a pattern. Jake Duffield found himself without a tee (or even a cone) for the conversion, so drop-kicked the ball and sent it wide. 0-5
Both sides attempted to put pressure on by kicking deep, but there was little pattern to the play until on 19 minutes a quick attack through the middle forced North Walsham to concede a penalty 15m out, which Luke Tilly scored between the posts. Walsham were using the slope to gain territory, but couldn’t make anything stick. Brentwood’s pack was very efficient, especially in the line out, and their centres kept attacking to good effect. On 27 minutes Joshua Stannard crossed the line pulling two Viking defenders with him, Tilly sending this kick wide. 8-5
Further errors and a rising penalty count gave Brentwood’s pack their first try, mauling over for James Killington to score, Tilly missing his second kick; and then Chris Godwin was yellow-carded as the referee’s patience snapped. Into injury time in the first half, the Vikings found themselves down to 14 and behind 13-5 – and the advantage of the slope was about to be turned against them! Half-time: 13-5
The Vikings started the second half with two substitutes, one of whom at fly-half was Ben O’Hickey making his debut for North Walsham. Better kicking, much of it from O’Hickey, and a more committed defence, meant that they started well. No more points were conceded before Godwin returned from the sin-bin.
The penalty count started moving in the Vikings’ favour as they started to put pressure on Brentwood’s flanks, and when Paul Bradley was yellow-carded North Walsham took advantage when on 24 minutes Will Hodgson surged over, O’Hickey kicking the conversion wide. O’Hickey had another chance, 30m out but central, with a penalty on 32 minutes. This to level the scores ... but the kick dropped short! 13-10
The Vikings were competing much better in all areas of the pitch, but Brentwood remained a potent side, and nobody is better at playing their pitch than them. Another surging run from their centre down into the famous corner broke through the defence and was finished off, kicked well by Tilly for 20-10. And then three minutes into added time Bradley – back from his sin-binning – peeled off the back of the scrum to score in the other corner, Tilly once again adding two. Full-time: 27-10
The late flurry of points felt a little unjust on the Vikings who had only recently had a chance to equalise, but in truth the scoreline reflected Brentwood’s efficient performance throughout, and the Vikings’ weak first half. James Brooks awarded the Chalk Hill brewery man-of-the-match to O’Hickey whose kicking and attacking intent injected some much needed energy into the side in the second half. Despite significant disruption with injuries, the second half performance pleased Brooks – and this writer too!
North Walsham: 1. Aki Downing, 2. Will Swart, 3. Tom Browes; 4. Ryan Oakes ( c ), 5. Todd Scotland; 6. Roydon Miller, 7. Chris Godwin, 8. Will Hodgson; 9. Mike Braans, 10. James Knight; 11. Jim Riley, 12. Hal Riley, 13. Daniel Smith, 14. Tom Younie; 15. Jake Duffield. Replacements: 16. Tim Weber (for Downing, 40 mins), 17. Ed Sampson (for J. Riley, 54), 18. Ben O’Hickey (for Younie, 40).
Scorers: tries – Downing, Hodgson.
Referee: Ryan Collier from Gloucestershire.