Henley Hawks 43 Exmouth 38 pts
The Hawks ran otr narrow winners over bottom of the league Exmouth in a game which resembled a school seven-a side match in terms of skills where, in the Hawks’ case, they had very poor ball retention and indifferent handling skills. Through careless play they presented three tries to Exmouth who were quick to take advantage of theirerrors.
In addition theyfailed to take advantage of scoring opportunities particularly at the start of the game after Xavier Andre ran strongly through from 22 metres to touch down to give scrum-half George Jackson a straight forward to conversion to make the score 7- 0. The Hawks, well on top at this stage, increased this to 14 points when prop Ziana Momtout- Alexis crashed over from a forward drive for a converted try whilst Exmouth were reduced to 14 players as captain Jack Fahy was cooling his heels in the sin bin for foul play.
A crushing defeat seemed to threaten Exmouth but they were to benefit from the profligate play of the Hawk's backs as a clearance kick was allowed to bounce between wing and full back who stood still allowing the visitor’s full back Dan Powell to collect the ball to run away to score under the posts for fly-half George Meadows to convert (who had a 100% record in the game) to add to the penalty with which he had put Exmouth on the scoreboard after 16 minutes to reduce the Hawks' lead to 14-3, which was now reduced to 14-10.
The Hawks were put back firmly in the lead with probably the try of the match when their fly-half Joe Butler collected the ball in space deep in the Hawks’ half. He then proceeded to carve, at pace, a hole in the Exmouth cover to run though to their posts and touch down for a try converted by his half-back partner Jackson to put his side 21-10 in the lead. However, an interception try by Henry Goldson, who latched onto an outrageous20 metre pass, was converted inevitably by Meadows to make the score 21-17 at the break.
The start of the second half was something of disaster as the restart kick-off was knocked on and this put Exmouth on the attack. Their pack had been masters in the set scrums from the 21st minute when tight head Brad Cook had been withdrawn because of injury. They also could not effectively use driving mauls to create a score or defend. Exmouth took advantage of this observed weaknessto drive over for a score near the posts to give them the lead for the first time with No. 8 Sam Thomas going over which, with conversion, made them 24-21 in front.
This was short lived for the Hawks immediately retaliated with a converted try by Liam O’Neill who had frequently caused problems during the game with his elusive running making the score 28-24.
However, again slack play by the Hawks, who still regard possession in a flippant manner, ended with Powell once more on hand to seize a loose ball, the result of sloppy control, to race away for their fourth gift try of the game. With the score at 31-28 the Hawks were beginning to look like they were facing a defeat largely of their own making.
They rallied immediately with a penalty by Jackson .Then pressing hard in an attack which took them into a position that enabled centre Tom Gardner to touch down, which was not converted so that the score stood at 36-31.
The pressure on theHawks was relieved when Butler scored his second individualistic try. Again breaking clear from deep in the Hawks’ half when challenged on the Exmouth 22 he kicked ahead to beat the cover to the touch down which, with the conversion, put his side 43-36 in the lead with seven minutes of play left.
There was still drama to come when Exmouth 40 metres out had a break in the centre and the kick ahead was pursued over the Hawks line buta touch down was denied the visitors by theassistant referee who observed that the winger involved was off-side.
This game, with a Basketball like score line ,was a warning to the Hawks that their prospects in the league will not be good against the stronger teams to be played with current skill levels of poor standard. Games of touch rugby will not suffice.
15. James Comben (Louis Flynn 69)), 14. Xavier Andre, 13.Tom Gardner, 12.Liam O’Neill.11. Simon Perry, 10. Joe Butler 9.George Jackson 1. Brad Cook (George Primett 46), 2. Tom Emery (Stuart Philpott 54.) , 3. Ziana Montout-Alexis (George Primett 61), 4. David Clements (Charley Davey 67), 5. David Hyde, 6. Tom Hall, 7. Iwan Davies (GeorgeLane 62), 8. Jake Albon (Clements 80)