DIVISION ONE NORTH
Saffron Walden 34
If ever a game summed up Diss’ start to life back in Division One North, Saturday’s home clash with Saffron Walden was it.
Head coach Dave Smith had previously described his side’s performances this term as ‘basketball rugby’ and their latest outing at Mackenders certainly lived up to that billing.
Trailing 22-13 at the interval, Diss rallied in the second half and looked to be heading for victory when the impressive Stephen Hipwell crashed over late on to open up a seven-point advantage.
But the Blues’ inability to retain possession reared its head once again and they were duly punished as Walden secured a draw in the game’s last meaningful venture into enemy territory.
“That sums up how the season has gone so far,” Smith said after the final whistle.
“The most disappointing thing is we have dropped two points because we should have been coming away with five.
“Their late try should not have mattered because by then we should have been 15 or 20 points in the clear.
“We have given them 12 points through interceptions and loose play in key areas.
“But we also played some great rugby. We need to tighten up defensively, but overall three points is better than none.
“There are positives and negatives to take going forward.”
The tone for the encounter’s end-to-end nature was set as early as the fourth minute when Walden centre Mark Kimberley strode through a gap in the Diss defence to run in the first try.
However, Diss were level soon after when their talisman Hipwell scored a try from 10 metres, with Chris Beaird adding the extras to put the home side 7-5 to the good.
The lead would last only until the 15th minute, though, when some wayward Diss passing saw Kimberley make the interception and he proceeded to run 70 yards to dot down under the posts.
The visitors from Essex were now well in the ascendancy and they opened up a 17-7 lead after they kicked a penalty to the corner.
The resulting maul saw Diss pushed over the line, with Matt Holden getting his name on the scoresheet.
And it got even worse for the home team when Paul Marshall embarked on a long run, before off-loading to Ollie Webber to run in the bonus-point try and put his side 22-7 in front.
Diss were on the ropes at this point, but with half-time fast approaching, Beaird retained his composure on two occasions to score penalties, reducing the deficit to 22-13 in the process.
Those two Beaird penalties lifted spirits among the Mackenders faithful, who were well and truly behind their team 10 minutes after the restart when neat inter-play between Warren Wilby and Jo Brock released Freddie Precious to score, with Beaird’s radar once again spot on to bring Diss within two points.
But just when it appeared Diss were on the march, some poor discipline saw Jacob Page sent to the sin bin and with 15 minutes remaining Walden made their numerical advantage count.
They switched the ball swiftly from one wing to the other, presenting Adam Miles with a chance he was never going to turn down.
To their credit, Diss refused to lie down and accept their fate and with four minutes to go, they managed to get their noses in front.
First Beaird converted his own try and then the team’s driving force — Hipwell — went over for what looked to be a match-clinching try.
But the away side would not go away and after the combination of Kimberley and Miles helped to get the ball forward, Marshall made a break from the base of the ruck eight metres out and he managed to make a dramatic dive over the line.
The three points has left Diss eighth in the table ahead of tomorrow’s trip to top-of-the-table Chingford (2.30pm), who have won all nine of their matches so far this season.
“Everybody knows the start to the season Chingford have made, but we have to go down with the mindset of trying to win the game,” said Smith.
“It is going to be tough, we know that, but maybe we can spring an upset.”