Below-par display sees Dereham knocked off Eastern Counties Two North top spot after defeat

Dan Ponder takes the ball at the top of a Dereham line out. Picture: TIM EVANS

Dan Ponder takes the ball at the top of a Dereham line out. Picture: TIM EVANS - Credit: Archant

Dereham 17 Diss II 27

Dereham hosted Diss II on Saturday on a cold and windy afternoon at Moorgate Road, writes Tim Evans.

Dereham started the game top of the pile with a good Diss team sitting in third place. Early play saw the visitors applying good pressure to a resolute home defence who, in the fifth minute, were a little too keen to get forward early and were caught offside. Diss failed to capitalise from the penalty.

Further pressure resulted in a poor Dereham clearance kick giving Diss a line out on the home team 22-yard line. From that, the away team worked the ball inside and a strong run from their centre resulted in a try (converted).

This stung the league leaders who were awarded a penalty in the visitors' 22. Indiscipline saw the penalised team marched a further 10 yards back to the five-yard line. This enabled second row Andy Brooke to receive on the crash ball to go over (converted) to level the score.

Dereham had another penalty chance to add to their tally but chose the line out-option. Their set pieces were coming under pressure and they were not helped by the absence of Richard Dunsire which restricted their line-out options and also the loss of big Roger Watson early on to a head injury meant.

The visitors went further ahead when a home ruck was turned over allowing a break on the outside and a score in the corner (unconverted). Once again, Dereham got themselves back into a good position in the Diss 22 but allowed a turnover and another ball was cleared leaving the half-time score at 12-7 to the men on the road's advantage.

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Some hard talking at the break seemed to pay little dividend when the Diss hooker scored (converted) following several good phases of possession through their forwards.

Dereham responded again but could only go so far with lost possession from good field positions and poor rucking being a feature and it was their opponents who would extend their lead even further when the home team conceded possession yet again (unconverted).

Dereham were well under the cosh now and their cause became even more difficult when prop Lewis Smith was yellow carded for an indiscretion at a ruck. Dereham were weathering the storm however and when their punished player returned to the field, this seemed to galvanise the team.

For the first time, the Dereham scrum looked the more dominant and a penalty in the home team's favour saw scrum half Karl Thomas tap and go to score a great opportunist try (unconverted). The home team's tails were up now and when Brett Stolworthy went over in the corner in the 72nd minute, Dereham were now somehow within a converted score of the visitors.

Once again though and to the home team supporters' frustration, good Dereham position was given away by an unfortunate high tackle and a subsequent Diss drop goal effectively took the game away. Dereham finished the game on the front foot but couldn't improve on the score line.

After the match, club captain Rhys Leader said: 'The boys are smarting a bit at the moment with a below-par performance.

'We wanted to start the new year well but credit to Diss who fully deserved their win on the day and we must pick ourselves up now against Norwich II (away) next week if we are to remain title contenders.'