LONDON 2 NORTH: Braintree 31 Norwich 34
Braintree’s first outing after a rain-interrupted February saw them narrowly fail to stage a dramatic comeback in a pulsating game at Robbswood.
Braintree took the brave decision to go for the win when they were awarded a penalty nine minutes from time with their visitors just three points ahead.
But instead of opting to kick themselves level, they bravely went for touch in an attempt to strong-arm their way to a match-clinching try, via their pack.
Sadly, their courageous approach failed to pay dividends and they ended up losing the game.
Norwich drew first blood, a driving maul triggering a move which saw the ball spread wide right for full-back Jonathan Wheater to score an unconverted try.
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Braintree hit back and outside-centre Chas Monk made a powerful break before feeding Glen Whyatt.
Whyatt found wing Fergus Rollit-Mason, and his cute inside pass enabled scrum-half Joss Adams to score a superb try which was converted by Kingsley Joslin for a 7-5 lead.
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Rollit-Mason then added a second try for the Black and Ambers, but the hosts were then forced to make further changes after losing fly-half Joslin and second-row Wes Apps to injury, the latter with a fractured shoulder.
Nick Spearman added a third try on 33 minutes, converted by replacement Jamie Masters, to stretch Braintree’s advantage to 19-5, but Norwich reduced the deficit to 19-10 four minutes later, with winger Rob Micklethwaite scoring.
Braintree started brighter after the break, skipper John Smillie crashing over to give his side a 24-10 cushion.
Norwich took matters by the scruff of the neck, rattling in four tries in a devastating 20-minute period which proved to be the defining period of the game, Micklethwaite securing his hat-trick.
Norwich led 34-24 but the hosts reduced the gap when Dane Crush scored their fifth try, clinching two much-needed bonus points into the bargain. Masters converted.
The Robbswood faithful roared them on in the hope of a late score, but ultimately their decision to kick for touch after being awarded a 71st minute penalty cost them the game.