Richmond Normans came and conquered the Vikings in a very entertaining game at Footes Lane on Saturday afternoon.
A significant rise in standard was expected at RFU Level 7 after two seasons in the Sussex Merit Leagues for the Vikings, and that is certainly what a good sized crowd were treated to with plenty of running rugby and some good tries, particularly from the very strong visiting Normans backs.
Whilst the visitors proved too strong for the Vikings on the day, the home side more than proved that they should be able to compete well at this level and showed they can play some very good rugby, with the forward pack looking particularly strong.
The Vikings coaches will have also taken plenty of comfort from the fact that this was a first hit-out for their side after having no official pre-season fixtures, and whilst work in training is going to be required, particularly on their defence, they showed there is plenty to work with and they are likely to get much better.
The game on Saturday started very positively for the Vikings, after their forwards showed real scrummaging strength and earned an early penalty, which Matt Lomas slotted between the uprights. The lead did not last long as Richmond scored their first try following a Vikings overthrow at the lineout, with the conversion missed.
The home side’s power up front showed once again with another strong scrum, and this time it would turn into five points. As the Vikings marched the Normans back scrum-half Taylor Quate picked up the ball and darted over from close range. Lomas added the extras as the Vikings went five points to the good.
Sadly the lead did not last as three minutes later Richmond’s big tight-head prop charged over for their second try, and they would add one more before the break to take a 10-17 lead at half-time.
The second half was very much the same as the first with the big Richmond backs making metres at will, and the Vikings unfortunately missing first-up tackles which cost them dearly. However whenever the black and yellows had the ball they looked good, although more work will be needed to get the ball to the fast backs out wide, where there was plenty of space on Saturday.
Richmond eventually ran in five second half tries, but the Vikings scored two of their own through good work once again by the forwards. The skipper Leon Gardner dotted down first from a driving maul before Layton Batiste finished from short range after a good Tom Creed carry set him up. Lomas converted both to complete a perfect day with the boot for him.
It was far from a perfect start for the Vikings, but it was an encouraging display against a side packed with quality, but improvements are needed to turn encouraging displays into victories.