North Walsham 55
It may have been their biggest defeat for three years, but Sudbury coach Ben Scully believes there are plenty of positives to take out of Saturday’s home humbling.
Not since the 53-7 drubbing against Campion at Whittome Field in November 2013, had Sudbury been on the wrong end of such a one-sided scoreline as this.
Ahead of his first competitive game in charge at their Great Cornard base, Scully had said he wanted to make it into a fortress and a place other teams would fear.
But it did not take long for North Walsham, a side who finished sixth last term, 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.
But Scully refused to use that as an excuse, and insisted their were positives to draw from the performance.
“I am happy with the 18 lads we had on the field,” he said.
“We maybe missed a few ball carriers, the likes of Sam Conning, Alex Zahid and Jack Palmer, who we lost in the first pre-season friendly, but we have ball carriers and it is just about learning how to use them.
“No, I stick by the fact it was not because of them we were missing.
“I back my 18 every time and they will only strengthen the 18.”
Despite the scoreline, he was also pleased with certain facets of their play.
“I have always been a coach who focuses on the positives and there were a lot of positives,” he said.
“We defended extremely well. We soaked up pressure well and our scrummaging was extremely good.
“And teams won’t cope with us if we attack like we did in the last 10 minutes.
“For me it is not so much negatives, it is work-ons and things we can improve.
“The boys are disappointed but we will take the negatives as work-ons and take them into the weekend.”
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 Sudbury player Mark Pinnegar.
Playing up the hill in the first half, Chris Lewis’ penalty saw the hosts go into a third-minute lead, but it was not to last as the visitors broke through Sudbury’s defensive line for the game’s first try three minutes later. Will Hodgson found 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 themselves 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 this time.
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 Downing to finish. Matt Hodgson’s conversion extended their lead to 19-8.
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.
Two tries within a minute of each other at the start of the second half soon killed off any hopes of an unlikely comeback.
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 visitors 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 advantage 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 crowd 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.
Scully, who takes his side to fellow promoted side Old Priorians on Saturday (3pm), said: “For me and the team the frustration is we that didn’t we didn’t control the ball.
“I think physically we stood up to them. Our scrum held their own against theirs.
“And in the last 10 minutes we showed what I believe will be one of the best attacking teams in this league, but we have got to look after the ball better.
“We kicked away far too much easy possession and tried to offload far too much.
“I have spoken to the boys about playing exciting, but now we just need to learn to pick and choose when.”
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 showed ability with his try.