Saffron Walden 22 Vikings 50 Report from Paul Morse
Vikings end year with resounding win
The Vikings got their first win in three with this well deserved victory running in eight tries to four. It was though an inconsistent performance which veered from outstanding to well below par with little in between. 33-5 up at the break against a side with just two wins, they then conceded three tries in fifteen minutes before impressively reasserting their authority.
The visitors began imperiously moving the ball confidently at speed. Within five minutes they were ahead : five metre lineout, textbook catch and drive, Will Hodgson then bursting through tacklers on an angled run. Jim Riley, back from injury, then almost scored after a scintillating move involving brother Hal and Dan Smith before, in the tenth minute, James Knight put Acky Downing into space and the prop raced over, Jake Duffield converting. Two minutes later Duffield gathered a kick on halfway, Roydon Miller made ground and Harry Downing was in support for a converted try. Walden were struggling to handle the pace, strength and creativity of the Vikings' backs and, when they got possession, were being forced into errors by the visitors' speed and incisiveness.
The hosts then scored with their first attack. A penalty gave them a ten metre lineout which the Vikings failed to defend adequately, Luke O'Malley scoring. It felt like an aberration and sure enough the Vikings soon scored again, Jim Riley slicing through for a converted try after Tom Younie had initially breached the defence: 26 -3 with a quarter of the game gone. A lovely kick from Knight, who had a great game at fly half, nearly led to another score but the bounce was unkind.
The Vikings' intensity then gradually dropped, handling errors crept in, breakdown ball became slower and the penalty count rose. As ever though their defence was solid, Walden never looking like scoring. On the stroke of half time normal service was resumed, Hal Riley surging through on a forty metre run leaving five defenders sprawling to give Smith the scoring opportunity; Duffield converted.
An uncharacteristically lacklustre Vikings emerged after the break and within five minutes conceded two tries, Ben Nash and Sam Eardley scoring, Tom Price converting one. It was complete role reversal with Walden launching wave after wave of attacks and the Vikings unable to retain what little possession they had. The gap became eleven in the fifty fifth minute, Tom Pryce awarded a try when it seemed the Vikings had repelled another driving maul.
The tide then suddenly turned and with their first meaningful attack of the half the Vikings scored: twenty metre lineout, driving maul, break by Knight and the ubiquitous Hodgson was there to score. 38 -22, a quarter of the game left.
There was no stopping the Vikings now as they upped the pace. Their consistent scrum superiority was beginning to impact, the gain line was being consistently crossed and it was Walden being penalised. A score looked likely from a long Hal Riley run but he was penalised at the breakdown before, with ten minutes left, Lachlan Brown-Bates proved unstoppable from thirty metres. Finally at the death Knight deservedly got on the score sheet racing seventy metres after breaking three tackles, substitute Ben O'Hickey converting.
James Brooks was bemused by his side's inconsistency but pleased with the "fantastic first half." He named Will Hodgson, outstanding in defence and attack, as Chalk Hill Brewery Man of the Match.
Team: 15.Harry Downing 14.Tom Younie13.Dan Smith12.Hal Riley
11.Jim Riley10.James Knight 9.Jake Duffield1.Acky Downing
2.Lachlan Brown-Bates3.Tom Browes4.Ryan Oakes5.Todd Scotland 6.Roydon Miller
7 Chris Godwin8.Will Hodgson
Dane Canning/Acky Downing (40 mins)
Acky Downing/ Browes (55 mins)
Ed Sampson/ Godwin (61 mins)
Ben O'Hickey/ Harry Downing (64 mins)
Tries: Hodgson (2); Acky Downing; Harry Downing; Jim Riley; Smith;
Conversions: Duffield (4); O'Hickey
Yellow Cards: Younie
Referee: Stuart Graveston (Cambridge)