Saffron Walden 29 Norwich 22
Norwich’s roller coaster season continued with another game that they should have won, being allowed to slip from their grasp.
They lead until the last 15 minutes but can have little complaint over the result, having lacked the control, game management or, in stark contrast to last week, defensive capabilities to secure the win.
The result means that the hosts leap-frog Norwich in the league to take a 3 point advantage and fourth position from them, although they have to face the top two sides in their three game run-in whilst Norwich have already played them.
With a gale blowing straight down the pitch, Norwich were asked to use it in the first half. Initially they worked through the phases well and took an early lead when a line break by Dave Micklethwaite found Adam Huggins in support, who went over in the right corner. The kick was missed.
Saffron Walden looked composed in attack and ran the ball well, out of defence with clearance kicking being so difficult into the wind. When Norwich had the ball, they used the wind poorly and to little gain. Saffron Walden levelled the score as a result of a poor tackle, and poor organisation by the Norwich backs. The kick was missed 5:5
Norwich scored almost straight away from the restart when the pack split and Matt Selby retrieved a ‘grubber’ kick-off wide on the right, feeding the ball back across the park to Mike Lawton who had squeezed his way into the corner. The kick was missed 5:10
Pip Scott then scored just before halftime from a rolling maul resulting from a penalty kick to the corner and lineout. Lawton landed the conversion. 5:17
A 12 point lead looked insufficient with the strength of the wind and so it proved to be. Saffron Walden controlled the game well with intelligent positional kicking that had been absent from the Norwich use of the conditions.
Walden scored shortly after the restart when they ran virtually unopposed through a hole in the centre of Norwich’s defensive line, under the posts. The conversion was made. 12:17.
Several promising Norwich moves fell apart with handling errors or poor ball retention and Walden kept pushing them back into the corners. Norwich ground their way out and with Rudyard Gant making a good line break, the ball was fed out to Conan Hoey on the left wing who had plenty to do but beat two defenders to touch down. The kick was missed. 12:22
Norwich continued to apply pressure to Walden but frequently found themselves kicked back into their 22 with poor ball retention at the breakdown. From one of these setbacks, Walden worked the ball through the hands and scored in the corner and converting. 19:22
Walden then took a quick penalty in the Norwich 22 and scored, the conversion was made and they took the lead for the first time 26:22.
With a late penalty being converted for the hosts, the game ended 29:22.
Norwich have a week off to re-gather their thoughts allow some injured players to return and work out a plan to defeat Wanstead.