Dorking 59 North Walsham Vikings 33
Another improved performance from the Vikings saw them run second placed Dorking far closer than the hosts had anticipated. It looked all over at 31 – 7 after 25 minutes but ten minutes later the Vikings were just five points in arrears, had their season’s first bonus point and a famous victory was a realistic hope. That didn’t materialise but they stayed in contention deep into the second half, only 12 points behind with ten minutes left in this 14 try thriller.
As last week there were delays on the M25 and the team arrived less than an hour before kick-off. It didn’t look promising early on, 14 points down after six minutes: tries for Will Saunders and Henry Smith both converted by Craig Holland. Finally getting their hands on the ball though the Vikings began to go forward. Lacons Brewery Man of the Match Ross Magnus, who had an outstanding all round game, made a break ultimately leading to a cleanly won five metre lineout and, after patiently going through seven phases, Hudson de Lucchi plunged over; Magnus converted. 14 – 7 after 13 minutes.
It was fairly even for the next ten minutes before Dorking burst into life again. Three tries, Jon Ellis, Joe Andresen, Joel Grant, one converted came in the space of six minutes as they surged into a 31 – 7 lead. Dorking’s backs were playing some wonderful running rugby, attacking from deep, offloading at pace, a man always available. The Vikings seemingly had no answers but suddenly the game turned and they mounted a remarkable comeback with three tries in the space of five minutes.
First, Ewan Kingdon made ground from a lineout 10 just inside Vikings’ half and Wes McGuire had an incisive run before passing inside to Harry Langbridge who scored. A minute later, the same Langbridge expertly scooped up a loose ball and ran 35 metres before being dangerously tackled on the 22: penalty try. Finally, after keeping the ball alive in their 22, Harry Steward made a 40 metre break and found Connor Dudley in support who outpaced the defence over a similar distance; Magnus converted. Dorking were visibly shocked but extended their lead with a converted try for Ellis in the half’s last play: 38 – 26 the remarkable half time score.
Within a minute of the restart the gap was back to five, skipper Dan Smith intercepting on halfway to race away; Magnus converted from out wide. The momentum was back with the visitors but it was soon dampened by a yellow card for Kingdon, who had another influential game in attack and defence. Dorking camped in the Vikings’ 22 for the next ten minutes and so nearly held out defending two lineouts, a five metre scrum, a tapped penalty, twice holding them up over the line before finally conceding a converted try to Tom Bloomer: 45 – 33.
Parity restored and with fresh legs from the bench, debutant James Douglas included, the Vikings tore back and for the next 10 minutes the game ebbed and flowed, both sides keeping up a punishing pace. Early in this period the visitors looked the more likely to score, but in a rare set piece blemish a scrum was lost and a mix of solid defence and lack of precision cost other promising positions. 15 minutes from time Callum Watson was driven over for a converted try extending the lead to 19.
With five minutes left Dorking’s prolific winger Toby McRae, whom Steward had very effectively policed all game, made a weaving 50 metre run but Tawanda Kandemwa and Smith got back to help prevent the score. The run though gave the hosts an attacking position from which Holland scored and converted the match’s final try.
“Performances have improved significantly recently but we stepped up a couple more notches today and were rewarded with something tangible,” commented Niall Lear. “We still need to be more clinical in attack but after the early scores it was an outstanding defensive display by the backs against the best in the League. This performance gives us a lot to build on.” Next week it’s Henley at home.
Team: 15. Benji Hewitt 14. Harry Steward 13. Dan Smith 12. Ross Magnus 11. Wes McGuire 10. Harry Langbridge 9. Connor Dudley 1. Tim Weber 2. Ewan Kingdon 3. John Clarke 4. Hudson de Lucchi 5. Billy Tait 6. Leo Langbridge 7. Jobe Brooks 8. Charlie Fethney
Russell Arnold/Leo Langbridge front row due to Kingdon’s yellow (44 mins)
Kingdon (yellow expired), Langbridge/ Arnold (54 mins)
Henly Brightman/Clarke (55 mins)
Tawanda Kandemwa/McGuire (55 mins)
James Douglas/de Lucchi (56 mins)
Alfie Coop/ Dudley (61 mins)
de Lucchi/Fethney (65 mins)
Arnold/Weber (74 mins)
Tries: de Lucchi; Langbridge; Dudley; Smith
Conversions: Magnus (3)
Penalty Tries: One
Yellow Cards: Kingdon; Steward
Referee: Conor Boyle