Habs returned to Croxdale feeling confident after a superb comeback victory against Woodford. The resilience shown in that game boded well for what turned out to be a tough test against the league leaders North Walsham.
Befitting their lofty position, North Walsham arrived with almost as many coaches as players. The team bus apparently wasn't good enough for the head coach who arrived in a club branded pick up truck that looked slightly absurd in suburban Boreham Wood.
The difference in resources didn't show on the pitch. The first 5 mins were high intensity and pretty even, with both teams trading turnovers. Unfortunately the danger posed by the Walsham back line became apparent after they scored on first phase ball, a width of the field backs move that overwhelmed Habs. Walsham always had numbers in midfield, making it hard for Habs to stop the ball getting to their dangerous wings and fullback.
The second Walsham try was similar in that it was a another flowing backs move scored from an innocuous position. After Habs charged down a touch clearance inside the Walsham 22, Walsham regathered and interchanged passes amongst the outside backs, allowing them the run in a length of the pitch try.
Habs put themselves back in the game thanks to a try from Harry Briffit, put through by Josh Downie. Briffit barrelled through the fullback from short range, finishing with an extravagant commando crawl and reach for the line. Perhaps he know the Walsham photographer was near?
Habs discipline was crucial in keeping Walsham out as half time approached. Walsham became frustrated at the relentless Habs tackling and were lucky not to have a man sent off after the referee missed a blatant punch thrown against Connor. The pressure resumed but Walsham couldn’t find a way through, Ben Lewry and the Habs pack swatting the Walsham forwards like grizzly bears catching salmon.
After absorbing all of the Walsham attack, a score of 7-14 at half time felt like a victory. Playing down the hill in the second Habs quickly regained momentum, camping out in the Walsham 5m area without managing to get the ball over the line. The early pressure was temporarily halted after a yellow card against Harry Briffit. Being a man mountain wasn’t an excuse for going high against an opponent whose head was around Briffit’s waist height. Walsham used the opportunity to extend their lead after another flowing backs move that put the winger over in the corner after a well placed grubber.
Despite the prospect of the comeback receding, Habs continue to push right until the end, dominance in the scrum giving the backs the opportunity for a final couple of goes at the Walsham line. It wasn’t to be and the referee called time a minute early after Josh Downie needed a check for the head injury.
Man of the match went to your correspondent, but it could have been given to any of the pack who put in a huge performance. North Walsham chose to pick Clarky probably just because they could pick him out with his high fashion Mondrian inspired boots.
It was a performance that showed that Habs will compete in this league through their set piece, grit and structure in defence, characteristics that you would normally associate with a team that train more than 3 times per year. Though the defence couldn’t be faulted, the team never quite found the final ball that would have given them the reward they deserved. Against a team as strong as North Walsham, you need to take every chance.
Onwards and upwards to Chingford.