After a tough few weeks of results Old Habs were looking to right their wrongs against an in-form North Walsham side.
With the atmosphere in the changing room before the game it was clear that the Magenta Men were taking the game seriously. None more so than Will Longhill who’d swapped the sheep dog look for a Care inspired ‘high and tight’ haircut.
The game was off to a seemingly perfect start in-front of a packed out Croxdale Road. From the off Habs were on top, asserting pressure on an aggressive Walsham defensive line. A well worked move saw Downie punch through the line and run in under the posts with his equally tanned family cheering on from the sideline. Shortly after, Habs won a penalty on the half way line. Conor ‘Length’ Michaels slotted it over with plenty to spare. 10-0 to Habs.
Much of the first 30 minutes was played in the North Walsham half. North Walsham edged towards the halfway line only for the ball to be stripped in a tackle. After sustained pressure from Habs, Downie again sliced through midfield. Charlie Johnson ran a well-timed support line finding himself in space and darting in to score. Converted by Michaels, 17-0.
With Clarky returning to Rio in search of another mysterious rash, and General Marsden AWOL there were a few personnel changes in the pack. Seabrook forced to exchange his Twickenham ticket for the 8 shirt with debutant Aaron Radley starting at 6. OH put pressure on from the restart resulting in a 5m scrum where Sanderson’s & Co won 3 consecutive penalties. The referee refused to go under the sticks so eventually Habs opted to take on the NW defensive line. Strong defence saw the ball turned over and cleared long.
The clearance was regathered by North Walsham in midfield. After a number of phases they spin the ball wide and get around the edge of the defence scoring in the corner. This was followed by an excellent touchline conversion which narrowed the lead to 17-7.
Habs field the restart and Esam pins North Walsham back in their own 22m. From a lineout the North Walsham 10 throws a dummy and breaks through the Habs defensive line. Strong support play sees North Walsham run it in from 90 meters. A try that Walsham coaching staff will certainly replay during their video analysis session. 17-12 to Habs at the break.
The ball was booted deep from the kick off and NW managed to retain it. The Vikings were hammering the OH defensive line and it seemed a try was imminent. A turnover penalty under the posts momentarily relieved the pressure however NW again had possession in the OH 22m. They eventually broke through the OH defensive line and scored a converted try. For the first time the visitors were in front. 17-19 to North Walsham.
North Walsham had come out of the blocks firing and benefitted from the majority of territory and possession in the second half. They scored a good mauling try from 5m out to extend their lead. Despite periods of possession OH could not again cross the whitewash. Good link-up play between Esam and Radley saw Habs break into the North Walsham 22. The ball was turned over by North Walsham which was met by Ric Flair style Woooos. It appeared as though this was their main method of communication both on and off the field of play. Some handbags persisted and a well timed slap by Radley saw him sent to the bin. ON DE-BUT!!
Habs had been struggling to build phases in attack and it was testament to the Viking’s defensive line speed. North Walsham had capitalised on a couple of opportunities extending their lead to 17-36. Habs had not given up and their persistence was rewarded with a scrum in the North Walsham half. Debutant Rhys Thomson made and impact in open play and then helped Habs win a scrum penalty. OH kicked to the corner but the lineout was turned over and again North Walsham went the length. A real blow to the home team. Final score 17-43.
Credit to North Walsham who despite going 17 points down in the first half showed true class and determination to come back and win the game by such a margin. Despite showing real promise in the first half, Old Haberdashers will have been disappointed with their second half performance. With just four games left OH will be looking to build on this performance in secure a top 6 finish. A record for the club.
Next Fixture away at Luton on 23rd March.