Encouraging Display at Southend
By Steve Langford
Walden travelled to Southend for their second preseason game of the year
With a no of changes from their first fixture against Fullerians, Walden were further hampered by Man of the Match against Fullerians Brad Baker being unavailable due to last minute work commitments.
On a wet and windy night, it was Southend who found their rhythm early and put pressure on the Walden defence scoring a try wide out on the right. Walden seemed to struggle with the damp conditions and Southend were able to apply more pressure from Walden turnovers at breakdown and lineout. This led to another try from the Southend No 8 who drove over from a 5 metre scrum increasing the lead to 10 – nil.
Walden then gained a foothold in the game with some solid set piece work and multiple phases. From a dominant scrum inside the Southend 22 a well worked backs move culminated in full back Tom Price ghosting through the Southend defence for a try that Kimberley failed to convert. The rest of the first half wa splayed out in the middle of the field with both sides struggling with the ever-worsening conditions. After some good interplay between forwards and backs Southend added another try just before half time adding the conversion to take the lead to 17 – 5.
Nick Dawson had replaced Simon Hallows just before half time and added strength to an already dominant scrum, Martin Baldwin and Steve Muggridge joined Dawson in the front row at half time and put further pressure on the Southend scrum. Doug Olaga had replaced Adam Miles at half time and made an immediate impact with some big tackles and ball carries. With Keegan Diggons and Conor McCabe at half back for Walden controlling field position it was against the run of play when Southend scored again and converted to take the score to 24 – 5.
With Ben Stapleton providing some top-quality lineout ball Walden probed the Southend defence with Kimberley in the centre and back rowers Will McGinn and Nik Baker very prominent carrying the ball and winning the gain line battle. From another dominant scrum the ball was fed to flying Fijian wing Villi Devuto who beat 3 defenders to sprint clear and score the second try for Walden, Kimberly with a superb conversion from wide on the right.
Early in the second half Rob Booth replaced Oscar Norman and Luke O’Malley replaced Charlie Potter and was immediately prominent with some big tackles around the ruck area along with Joe Robinson snuffing out any Southend attacks. Walden were dominant all around the field and with some good work to secure a turnover on the half way line openside Ben Stapleton who had a superb game in the set piece and open play was set free for a 50 metre run in, Kimberley pushing the conversion just wide.
Matt Pritchard replaced the superb Diggons and 18 yr old wing Alex Watson replaced Devuto on the wing with Walden’s superior fitness beginning to tell they pushed hard for the win but were unlucky with the conditions and Southend’s stubborn defence in the final 10 mins with the final score 24 -17 to Southend.