LONDON LEAGUE ONE NORTH: Sudbury 13 North Walsham 55
An understrength Sudbury side were given a rude awakening to life in London One North this afternoon as North Walsham ran in nine tries to two at Whittome Field in a ruthless and dominant display.
Ben Scully, the new Sudbury head coach, had said he wanted to make their Great Cornard ground a fortress going into the contest, but it did not take long for their opponents to make a mockery of that.
In their first home game at the higher level, Sudbury prop Sam Conning’s wedding meant key players, including flanker Chris Whybrow and centre Nick Robinson, were among six starters from the 17-7 opening day defeat at Saffron Walden who were unavailable.
And the gulf in class was soon evident as North Walsham, who finished sixth in London One North last term, put Sudbury to the sword.
A minute’s silence was held before kick-off for the recent deaths of referee Garry Coombes, ex-Eastern Counties president Brian Williams and former player Mark Pinnegar.
Sudbury were playing up the hill in the first half but had the wind at their backs.
They went into a third minute lead when North Walsham were penalised just inside their 22 metre line and Chris Lewis kicked between the posts.
But a sign of what was to come followed three minutes later when the visitors broke through Sudbury’s defensive line for the game’s first try, Will Hodgson finding Matt Hodgson who spun through two tackles to ground the ball, before kicking the extras himself.
Charles Jackson’s failure to clear a deep kick almost cost Sudbury, but the home side found thesmelves trailing 12-3 a quarter-of-an-hour in when from a quick tap penalty by Jono Lawson, Ryan Oakes scooped up the ball at the breakdown and dived over, with Matt Hodgson’s kick going wide.
But the hosts responded well and got their first try on the board just over a minute later. Henry Cowling made an interception and carried the ball well with a strong run into North Walsham’s half and from the breakdown the ball was shipped out to the right wing where Jackson went over in the corner. Lewis’ conversion kick just missed its target.
Sudbury’s porus defending undid their good work three minutes later though when, from a scrum on the half-way line, Matt Hodgson exploited a gap and laid off to Harry Dowding to finish. Matt Hodgson’s conversion extended their lead to 19-8.
Full-back Jackson saved Lewis’ blushes soon after when he cleared after the fly-back’s kick had been charged down in front of the posts.
North Walsham brought up their fourth bonus point try 34 minutes in when feeble defending allowed Jordan Mustard to run in almost unopposed following a five-metre scrum on the left-hand side for an unconverted try to take the score to 24-8.
Sudbury’s try had been their only significant passage of territory in their opponent’s half, but they went on to end the first period strongly without being able to make it count.
The start of the second half gave the home crowd hope of an unlikely comeback as club captain Shaun Smith made good ground bursting down the right wing, but North Walsham managed to clear the danger.
The game reverted to type soon after with the visitors racking up two tries inside a minute of each other.
First, lock Lawson’s perseverance chasing down a long kick on the left-hand side in the 43rd minute was rewarded as hapless defending allowed him to knock it forward and go on to ground it, with Matt Hodgson unable to put the tricky kick over.
Then, from the restart the vistors reclaimed possession and worked the ball out to the right wing when Tom Knight went over from close in with Matt Hodgson’s successful conversion from their sixth try extending their advatange to 36-8.
A further score followed in the 58th minute when the ball was worked inside from the right this time for Will Hodgson to dive over, Matt Hodgson kicking the extras.
The home corwd finally had something to cheer as the match approached the last 10 minutes, with Smith showing great feet to dart inside two tackles and touch down after swift hands had seen the ball moved out to the right-hand side. Tom Summers’ kick agonizingly came back off the outside of the right-hand post to leave the scoreline at 43-13.
North Walsham were not done though and hit the 50 mark when Will Hodgson ran through a gap on the left wing with Matt Hodgson providing a good conversion.
From the restart Summers was warmly applauded for preventing a further score with a pivotal interception.
But the visitors could not be prevented from getting a ninth try of the afternoon as soon after the star of the show, Matt Hodgson, went over on the right-hand side before adding the extras himself for 55-13.
To their credit, Sudbury kept trying to make things happen at the other end and were it not for a poor bit of handling from Thomas Barry, could have got a third try on the board.
The match ended with the gulf in class on the day rightly reflected in the scoreline though.
Sudbury will have to hope the absence of key players was behind their inability to defend properly, which would surely continue to get punished at this level.
Sudbury: 1 Barry, 2 S Maile, 3 Dedross, 4 Taylor, 5 Currie, 6 Ponty, 7 Thurlow, 8 Cowling, 9 Beckett, 10 Lewis, 11 H Maile, 12 Summers, 13 Wright (c), 14 Smith, 15 Jackson. Replacements: Todd, McGuiness, Chaplin.
Free Press Man of The Match: Shaun Smith. Club captain provided a sign of his ability with his try.
* For reaction from Sudbury head coach Ben Scully, see Thursday’s Suffolk Free Press.