The Vikings begin their 2024 fixtures this Saturday at Tonbridge Juddians, the game postponed from November. Pitch conditions are a concern this time too, the venue moving to the Judd School’s 3G pitch. The Kent side are seventh with six wins and a draw from 13, having faltered a little lately losing their last three. They recruited heavily pre-season, bolstering a squad that already included many experienced at a higher level such as second row Perry Parker (Edinburgh, Ospreys and Stade Dijonnais). Amongst those recruits was ex Viking Matt Musindi, yet though to make his debut. Their leading points scorer is fly half Sam Evans, who has kicked 85 points and scored two tries. Evans was in Worthing’s team that beat the Vikings last March and has played in National Two for four different Clubs in as many seasons. Tonbridge certainly know the way to the tryline, scoring four or more tries on eight occasions; newcomer hooker Will Holling, signed from Championship side Doncaster, is their leading try scorer on 12, seven more than any of the backs.
Last season was the first time the sides had met, Tonbridge winning both matches. In October they won convincingly 45 – 7, the Vikings a man down from the second minute after Will Hodgson was sent off for an offence which was downgraded to a yellow card on appeal. The return in Norfolk four months later was much tighter, 17 -20, the result in the balance until the final whistle. Tonbridge, who have been in the National Leagues for six years, including a season in League One, finished eighth in 2022 -23 with 15 wins from 26 matches.
Niall Lear’s selection includes in the front row Ewan Kingdon, signed from Bury St.Edmunds, and John Clarke, available now Norwich School’s season is over. Alfie Coop, fully fit again, is also likely to feature in the squad for the first time since September. Niall commented, “obviously it’s another tough one against much more experienced opponents, but the boys are up for it. They’ve trained well this week and as ever will be giving their all.”