Tonbridge Juddians 59 North Walsham Vikings 12
Another disappointing result for the Vikings. Nevertheless, their second half performance showed what quality rugby they can produce and left the few travelling supporters wondering why they couldn’t play like that for the full 80 minutes.
47 – 7 down at the break after a half in which they had been overwhelmed in conceding seven tries, the Vikings stormed back showing they can be competitive at this level. TJs still “won” the second half by two tries to one but the reverse wouldn’t have been an unfair reflection of the half.
Pre-match preparations were not ideal, the team arriving less than an hour before kick off after a near five hour journey for a fixture played on an Independent School’s 3G pitch only accessible on foot via a building site.
Within 12 minutes the Vikings were 21 – 0 down, staring at a big defeat as TJ’s big efficient pack generated tries for Matt Walsh, Tom Nicoll and Ryan Munnelly, all converted by Tom White.
A short calmer period followed as the visitors finally got their hands on the ball before a moment of magic from Tawanda Kandemwa in the 17th minute. Gathering a kick wideout on halfway he set off on a scintillating run weaving right, left and then right again without any perceptible change of pace, evading at least eight defenders to score; Ross Magnus converted. The Vikings couldn’t build on that though, winger Howard Packman soon going over in the corner after the forwards had again done the hard graft: 26 – 7, only a quarter played.
They made a brief visit to TJ’s territory, Hudson de Lucchi tap tackled as he ran a great line into the 22, before a home centre made a 60 metre run from his own half, the tenacious Connor Dudley doing well to get back and haul him down.
TJs were impressive, getting quick ball at the breakdown, consistently crossing the gain line, protecting the ball and converting their scoring opportunities into points. They were rewarded with three further tries in the final five minutes of the half: a second for Packman, Duncan Tait and Max Hayes. Tom White converted the first two before he was replaced by leading points scorer Sam Evans.
The Vikings were so very different in the second half. TJ’s intensity didn’t seem to drop but the visitors upped their tempo, tightened their defence and showed more incisiveness and patience in attack.
They were buoyed by a try after two minutes: Dan Smith made a trademark 40 metre run and, whilst his pass evaded the supporting runners the position wasn’t lost and, after a lineout and tapped penalty, the forwards patiently went through the phases for John Clarke to score.
Sniffing the bonus point (two more tries needed) the Vikings were suddenly in the ascendancy, Charlie Fethney bounding through and impressive debutant Ewan Kingdon making ground as he did throughout before, with 30 minutes to go, TJs clinically exploited an opportunity for Luke Talbot to score.
Whilst the game was fairly even thereafter, the lack of scores a testament to the quality of both defences, the Vikings proceeded to play some good rugby. The forwards, with joint Lacons Brewery Men of the Match Henly Brightman and Kingdon in the vanguard, continued to win a good share of possession and make progress with ball in hand whilst the backs began to find some space, executing intricate moves at pace.
Twice they were held up over the line and Brightman made a memorable darting 25 metre run. Disappointingly they conceded in the final minute: indiscipline cost them a penalty on halfway, perfect kick to the corner and TJ’s efficient forwards drove Jack Whitmarsh over from the lineout.
“We were so much better than the scoreline suggests,” said Niall Lear. “We were poor first half, but the set piece was good throughout against one of the League’s better packs and the backs were much more incisive in the second half though they need to be more accurate.” Next week it’s another long trip to second placed Dorking.
Team: 15. Benji Hewitt 14. Harry Steward 13. Dan Smith 12. Ross Magnus 11. Tawanda Kandemwa 10. Harry Langbridge 9. Connor Dudley 1. John Clarke 2. Ewan Kingdon 3. Henly Brightman 4. Hudson de Lucchi 5. Billy Tait 6. Leo Langbridge 7. Jobe Brooks 8. Charlie Fethney
Callum Howe/Brightman (49 mins)
James Baldwin/Tait (54 mins)
Brightman/Clarke (54 mins)
Pieter de Lange/ Kingdon (60 mins)
Alfie Coop/ Dudley (60 mins)
Wes McGuire/Steward (62 mins)
Tries: Kandemwa; Clarke
Referee: Simon Waite