Saffron Walden 26
Captain Fraser Hall conceded Diss’ destiny is no longer in their own hands after a decisive defeat away at title rivals Saffron Walden.
Diss headed into the top-of-the-table clash a single point ahead of their hosts but it was Saffron Walden who relished the pressure of the clash as they nullified Diss to run out comfortable winners and regain top spot.
The defeat leaves the Mackenders-based outfit four points adrift of their victors with nine games remaining and has left Hall fearing a repeat of last season where his side suffered promotion heartbreak, allowing the title to slip away to eventual champions Chelmsford, who they lost to in the vital late stages of the campaign.
“The whole game was them playing very well, and credit to them, and us playing poorly with a lot of errors,” he conceded.
“We train all week to cope with the pressure of a match like that to make sure you don’t make mistakes, and so I can’t tell you why we played the way did. I can’t pull away from how big a game that was, there is no hiding from that.
“The title is definitely between them and us and unfortunately what we now have to do is rely on someone else doing us a favour – destiny is no longer in our hands.
“It brings back memories of Chelmsford last season and when push comes to shove I would have thought that last season’s frustrations and disappointments would have been learnt from but perhaps those demons are still there.
“Winning every game from now until the end of the season is not out of the question with this group.
“We can’t guarantee anything but I hope the team has a bit more mental resolve going forward and we have to believe that we can still achieve what we want.”
It was the visitors who were gifted with the first opportunity after three minutes but Sean McClure’s penalty attempt cannoning back off the upright.
The home team responded with a prolonged period of sustained pressure near Diss’ try line and they were finally rewarded for their endeavours as James Gosden managed to force the ball down in the right-hand corner.
Tom Price’s attempted conversion fell short of the posts to leave Walden with a 5-0 advantage. The visitors responded well to the setback and found themselves encamped on the home side’s try line.
However, despite a prolonged period of pressure, they could not find a breakthrough as the home side held their slender advantage going into the interval.
The second-half started much like the first with very little between the sides but it was the hosts this time who missed an early penalty attempt as Price’s kick fell short of the posts.
However, the Saffron Walden fans were celebrating again after 62 minutes as their side extended their advantage with another try as a flowing move from the left involving Ben Nash, Matt Holden and Nick Baker saw the latter crash over in the left corner.
Price then added a super conversion from the acute angle to put his side 12-0 ahead.
With momentum behind them and Diss visibly tiring, the home side scored their third try of the afternoon as a quick lineout and handling error from McClure was capitalised on by Adam Miles who raced clear to score between the posts. Price successfully added the conversion to extend the advantage to 19-0 with four minutes remaining.
However, Saffron Walden refused to rest on their laurels with the added incentive of a bonus point on offer.
And with just two minutes remaining they added the try they so desperately wanted as Paul Marshall crashed over to seal the bonus point.
It was left to Price to kick the simple conversion, wrapping up the victory that took his side back to the top of the table ahead of Diss.