Are losing theirs...' - Rudyard Kipling
It was all in the numbers for us this weekend; a eye-rubbing 9am start; a three and a half hour coach trip complete with one pit stop; a 40 horse sweepstake for the Grand National; 18 degrees in the hot early Spring sun; a resounding 30-19 win; five league points; £10 in the whip and an extremely enjoyable return journey!
I make light of it but this was by no means an easy win - we expected a tough, physical game and were not disappointed. What North Walsham lack in flair and panache they more than make up for in grit and determination. They have come from behind to beat us on a number of occasions, including turning over a 17-0 deficit at Cow Lane earlier this year. But we had trained well and were riding high on an excellent run of results.
The home side were missing a few players and had made a some last minute changes. But we too were missing some key influencers - front row stalwart Mason Wallace and fly-half Rory ‘Quadzilla/Squadron Leader’ Wood. But such is the strength of our squad now, both players had able replacements who stepped up as required.
Any hint of complacency or lethargy from a long bus trip was soon knocked out of us in the opening few minutes. A mistake from the kick off and a scrambled clearance put us under pressure immediately and before we had a chance to catch our breath we were 5-0 down. Such a disappointment after keeping a clean sheet against Diss to throw it away so quickly.
Once we had regained our composure and implemented the gameplan, we showed how easy the game it can be. A few phases to suck the forwards in before shifting the ball wide into the spaces. It does help having a destructive backline who make it look so simple. An attack down the left saw an impressive interchange between Tim Loughnan, Tom Newton and John Preston before Loughnan crossed over - the extras added by the ever-present Liam Chennells.
North Walsham took the restart quickly and Nathan Lambden, showed stregnth with a clean take and offload under pressure. More slick inter-passing between Tom Newton and Chennells - surely both obvious selections for Hertfordshire - meant two scores in as many minutes and we were back in the groove.
At half-time we held a slender 12-7 lead. We had played some fantastic rugby but had also made some elementary errors which were keeping the home side in the game. The scrums had been a real problem with several penalties going against us - I’ll be honest the ‘dark arts’ of the front row are something of a mystery to me so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what was happening! The lineouts had been disappointing as well and the breaks downs scrappy.
After the break, we continued to find our feet and composure, another try from 'points machine' Chennells further extending the lead to 17-7. And then the fight back came. Walsham’s set pieces were strong and they had a number of muscular runners who were able to put them on the front foot. Our rugged goal-line defence has been a strong point over the last few months but was sliced through with ease as hooker McCall crashed over to make it 17-14.
|Liam Chennells' 'reward' for his hat-trick|
It was an excellent win as it such a tough place to get a result. Going on this performance, North Walsham are unlucky to be going down.
The bus trip was a predictably joyous celebration. More than a few eyebrows were raised as we clocked up over £200 worth of liquid refreshments from the good people at Norwich Asda. And so the standard mayhem ensued all the way back to Tring; new ‘caps’ singing their introductory song of choice - uncovering Jamie ‘Boycey’ Brown as something of a crooner; a few obligatory drinking games; and a couple personalised new verses to the ‘Tring Rangers’ some penned by yours truly!
In summary, a mature and assured performance produced a superb away win which was celebrated in style. Bring on Hertford at Fortress Cow Lane!