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Encouraging signs for Shelford despite defeat to North Walsham in London League 1N

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Promise in defeat may be of little comfort but Shelford should use it to take heart from their 29-14 defeat to North Walsham in London League 1N.

Adjusting to life in a new division was never going to be just a simple click of the fingers after last season’s travails, and so it is important to see the incremental building blocks put in place.

New head coach Paul Allen and assistant Darron Moore have certainly helped to engender a positive and upbeat atmosphere at the Davey Field, with club captain Charlie Baker talking about the freshness at training.

It does, though, take time for all the new structures to be carried out to perfection on the pitch and to fathom the squad - old and new - in the heat of battle.

Against North Walsham, it could be argued that to some extent Shelford were in part the architects of their own downfall.

Two of the visitors’ tries came through intercepts of attempted offloads and a third was the upshot of a couple of missed tackles on halfway.

That is not to take anything from their Norfolk opponents, who were very efficient and diligent in much of their work, and did not need an invite to put points on the board given their apparent ruthless nature - they had opened up their season with a 63-14 win at Woodford.

With Walsham suggesting that they will be there or thereabouts at the top come the end of the season, then Shelford should look to key parts of their game that withstood a stern test.

The set-piece was impressive, holding its own at both the scrum and line-out, and as they build you can imagine how strong a weapon it will become.

You would probably also give Shelford the upper hand at the breakdown, as they seldom lost out in the collision area.

It was just in possession that they seemed a little bit off the boil, not looking after the ball quite well enough and trying to offload when keeping play may have been the better option - finding that way to turn superior territory and possession into points will no doubt be the next challenge.

There were also mitigating factors for Shelford, with Brad Baker ruled out in a pre-match fitness test, Jordan Freer suffering an early injury, winger Anthony Batson picking up a knock before the game and then numerous changes required to the back-line throughout the 80 minutes.

The first points came in the 23rd minute as an attempted offload by Shelford was intercepted by North Walsham’s Matt Hodgson to race away and score. He converted his own try.

Four minutes later, a seemingly harsh penalty was awarded against Shelford and North Walsham did well to move possession through the midfield for Joe Milligan to attack the line at pace to get through and touch down.

Just before half time, another attempted pass by Shelford was seized upon by Dan Smith to race clear from just inside the hosts’ half, brushing off two weak tackles to touch down and Hodgson converted to give North Walsham a 19-0 lead.

Shelford were the dominant force for the first 20 minutes of the second half and, as the penalty count against North Walsham rose, James Cherry was eventually shown a yellow card.

While he was in the bin, Shelford made the extra man tell as from third phase ball off a scrum, Harry Rogerson touched down and Lewis Cracknell converted.

No sooner had Shelford been provided hope of a comeback, it was extinguished.

Hodgson broke through multiple tackles on halfway to break away and touch down, with his conversion making it 26-7 after 64 minutes.

Hodgson added a penalty in the 69th minute to increase the visitors’ advantage.

Shelford did not give up though, fighting to the bitter end and their hard work at least bore some consolation as Mike Gillick combined with Warrick Anderson to touch down. Cracknell landed the conversion.

So although it may be a second defeat for Shelford, after a 25-24 loss at Colchester on the opening day, it definitely feels like they have put down a strong platform from which to build.

Shelford: Gillick; Naulusala, Biard, Iese, Long; Lawson, Mepham; Mahmood, Eyres, M Anderson, Freer, Jackowski, Martinelli, Beswick, Elston.

Replacements: W Anderson, Rogerson, Cracknell.

North Walsham: Knight; Smith, Milligan, Anthony, Riley; Hodgson, Duffield; Canning, Knight, Youngs, Oakes, Sikiorski, Swart, Godwin, Dejongh.

Replacements: Browes, Cherry, Younie.

Scorers: 23min Hodgson try - Hodgson con (0-7), 27 Milligan try (0-12), 40+2 Smith try - Hodgson con (0-19), 60 Rogerson try - Cracknell con (7-19), 64 Hodgson try - Hodgson con (7-26), 69 Hodgson pen (7-29), 80+7 Gillick try - Cracknell con (14-29).

Sin bin: North Walsham - Cherry (technical offence, 60).

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