Hat-trick prize for Oscar as Walden finish relegation season with battling defeat
PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 April 2018
Saffron Walden ended their London One North campaign with a battling effort in a 59-29 defeat at Eton Manor.
Buoyed by their win over Old Priorians, but with only six survivors from their earlier meeting with Manor, they were left shellshocked as the hosts scored four tries in 12 minutes.
But number eight Nik Baker began a fightback, running deep into Manor’s 22 and offloading to winger Oscar Norman to touch down on the right and make it 28-5.
Manor went over twice more to widen the gap to 35 points after half an hour and the signs were looking ominous for Walden.
But their new combinations gradually came together in defence and attack with Conor McCabe growing in confidence in his first game at fly-half.
McCabe put centre Jon Goodin through with a crisp pass for a converted try late in the first half and Walden attacked again from deep, kicking to the corner.
Winning another penalty from the lineout, Walden saw man of the match Baker take a quick tap to go over the line before Manor could react to make it 40-17 at the interval.
Manor began the second half the stronger, though, and brought up their half-century with two more tries to make it 52-17 on the hour mark.
Walden refused to lie down, however, and second row Keith Thornicroft produced a superb try-saving tackle close to the line to epitomise their spirit.
The visitors had the better of the last 15 minutes of the match and Manor had a man sent to the sin bin, before Norman went over for his second try on the overlap.
Norman scored again soon after, receiving the ball 15 metres from the line and producing a determined effort to find a gap and get over the line.
That was as good as it got for Walden as Manor turned the ball over and ran a try under the posts, which was converted to complete the scoring.
But Walden could take heart from their fightback from 35 points down to claim a bonus point as the new half-back combination of colts Keegan Diggons and McCabe linked up well, and fellow colts Will Walker, Norman and Ed Smith also impressed.
Thornicroft, having given his all for the past few years, also bowed out on a high before his move to Canada this summer – after the senior tour to Amiens.