Fakenham and Broadlands faced off for a top of the league clash in this EC4 North game with the winner almost guaranteed promotion to EC3 North for next season. Both teams were expecting a hard fought game and it did not disappoint with the Broadlands forwards showing dominance and the experienced Fakenham backs helping their own forward out with the defensive duties. Broadlands forwards were winning all their scrummage ball and making it very difficult for Fakenham (who were going backwards a lot of the time) but they still managed to make use of the scrummage ball, in open play and lineouts the teams were well matched and it was going to be the team that used the possession better that would win the game. The visitors showed they were going to use their strength and weight advantage to win the game but Fakenham withstood the early onslaught to keep the scoreboard level a 0-0. Fakenham launched attacks of their own but at this stage of the game they could not break down the Broadlands defence but the signs
were there if Fakenham could get through the initial defence their pace might carry them home. After one attack the ball was moved towards the left wing and from a breakdown Jack Lowin-Green crashed through to score a try but left a difficult kick for Jonathan Kettell but he rose to the occasion and the kick was successful from wide out 7-0. This lifted Fakenham’s spirits and they slowly built up a head of steam. The defence was excellent with Toby Betts hitting some amazing tackles from the wing when faced with an overlap and he stopped the attacks cold. Eddy O’Dell, Steven Clay and Jack L-G lead the forwards charge and also put in some big hits in defence. The Fakenham mid field of Allen and the two Williamson brothers were starting to find little gaps in the Broadlands defensive line and exploit them to make big gains in territory. Ian Williamson was rewarded for his persistence after another great set up as he crossed the line to score an excellent try but the angle of the kick made it difficult and this time it was unsuccessful 12-0. Broadlands rallied and attacked but half time was looming and the visitors had to settle with the score line at half time at 12-0 to Fakenham.
The second half saw Broadlands determined to take the game to Fakenham and this they certainly did by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the home side, the defence was not pretty but proved effective and the pressure saw Broadlands knock the ball forward at critical times with scoring opportunities in their grasp. Fakenham would recover and breakout of defence and force their way into the visitors half only to lose possession and get pushed back into defensive duties again. This pattern repeated for 20-30 minutes and the home team were looking battered and bruised only for the smallest and lightest player on the field, Dec Sperring to find a tackle to fell someone twice his size. His contribution as scrum half was immense, finding thin gaps to squeeze through and even when under pressure getting passes away to Mark Allen to clear or set up an attack. This was now a battle royal for the title and worthy of a higher league status for either team with each player giving their all in a collective effort for their team to win the match. On one of Fakenham’s forays deep into the Broadlands half the visitors gave away a penalty on their own 22m line and being fairly central, Fakenham decided to attempt the kick, Mark Allen shouldered the responsibility and slotted the kick to stretch the lead to 15-0. Broadlands would have to score more than two converted tries to win but with less than 5 minutes of the game left they would try until the final whistle. Nick Mathers was still talking like it was the start of the game and with his teammates showing the spirit they have carried all season they held out a determined Broadland side. The final whistle eventually went and Fakenham in a mixture of relief and elation had won the day. The teams shook hands and embraced each other, it had been a war on the pitch but now to the bar to celebrate their efforts and their performances during the season. Fakenham and Broadlands both have one more league game each to play but the 7 points gap means Fakenham (barring any major mishaps) cannot be caught for the title. Both teams may be promoted and re-engage with these closely competitive fixtures next year in Division 3.
Fakenham will travel to Thetford next week for the Hogston/Crowley Cup, the game having greater meaning with the recent loss of Graham Crowley and this will be a fitting memorial day for his passing. The cup was named after the two then current presidents of the two clubs and sadly both have now passed but their legacy will see this fixture continue for many years, kick-off is at 3:00pm