Great Yarmouth-Broadland 7 Dereham 3 – Title hopefuls fall just short on east coast

It was a rare losing Saturday for Dereham.

It was a rare losing Saturday for Dereham. - Credit: PA

Dereham travelled to top-of-the-table Eastern Counties Two North Yarmouth on Saturday looking to leapfrog them to the top of the league, while having a game in hand.

This was Dereham's first real challenge of the season and a strong team took to the field on a freezing cold afternoon on the east coast. A gale force wind was also blowing straight down the pitch and the away side elected to play into it in the first half. Stinging sleet and hail added to the tough conditions for most of the first 40 minutes but, nevertheless, the big Dereham pack were able to retain possession for long periods.

They regularly worked the ball into the home team half through several phases but lacked creativity to turn possession into points. On several occasions, Broadland were able to clear their lines with huge wind-assisted clearances which generally were run back well by full back Phil East – who had a fine game throughout – and the cycle began again.

Despite the head wind, much of the first period was played in the home team's half but dropped passes and avoidable penalties against Dereham at the crucial moment were proving costly.

To rub salt into the wounds – and just when the Dereham thought they had negotiated a tricky period – another long Broadland clearance in the 40th minute found touch and the home team won the subsequent line out. A maul was set which the away side failed to deal with and Broadland's big forwards powered over for a score, which was converted.

Dereham were disappointed to trail going into the second half but with a strong tail wind, a single score was not insurmountable. A Marcus Evans penalty minutes into the half saw Dereham get their first points on the board and further long periods of possession put their opponents on the rack.

The Broadland defence was defiant, however, and, all too often, poor decision making from the away team when in good position and basic penalties conceded meant that they were unable to add to their score.

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Two further kickable penalty opportunities for the away side went begging and despite long periods in the Broadland 22, few opportunities were created.

Towards the end, the away fans thought a score might come with several pick and drives near the Broadland line but, again, poor decision making at the death meant that Dereham were unable to break the stubborn home defence.

Dereham head coach Rob Jones said: 'We're obviously disappointed that, despite controlling the game for long periods, we were unable to turn this into points on the board.

'Broadland showed good spirit and were able to lock all the doors and it was a very good contest on a foul afternoon for all. They perhaps handled the conditions better than we did on the day'.

Dereham have a tough county cup on Saturday at home to higher-level Beccles.