Exmouth 20 pts Henley Hawks 16 pts
After two successful gamesdrawing away at then leaders Chinnor and defeating local rivals Redingensians Henley Hawks would have been favourites to defeat bottom of the league Exmouth, with only one winning league game to their credit.
However it turned out to be a game that they will not wish to recall. From theword go they were on the back foot. Using a new firm to provide the team bus/coachfor the four hour journey they started one hour late because of an error by the contractorsAndersons . Fortunately with dry sunny conditions they were able to meet the 2 pm kick- off time. Thus already unsettled by the late start they suffered a further set-back with a late alteration to the starting line-up as full back James Comben was unable to travel which resulted in Alan Awock moving to full backand David Hankinson comingintothe centre position moving up from Henley Bulls.
Playing conditions were good for the start of the played on a dry firm pitch witha variable cold strong breeze coming off the nearby estuary. The Hawks made an encouraging start with fly- half Joe Butler chipping over an advancing home back line as he pursued a bouncing kick which eluded his attempt totouch down beforedead ball area. Nevertheless the Hawks half backs continued to press the home defence and a strong burst by George Jackson led to him touching down under the posts. Unfortunately his indifferent kicking form continued when he pulled his conversion attempt wide of the posts.
However the Hawks continued to dominate territory and possession and during the first half Exmouth rarely took the game into their half with perhaps 60 % of the game being in played in the Hawkshalf in the first 40 minutes. Henley for their part pressed hard to add to their score by use of driving mauls and they hammeredaway at the home line. Unfortunately referee David Clarkson, whose control of the set scrums was slow and indecisive, killed the momentum of the game andhe was alsounable to agree to the Hawks attempts to groundthe ball when driving over. With thehelp of advice of his assistant hedisallowed a valid touch down by Tom Emery.
During this half the nearest Exmouth came to scoringwas from two failed penaltyattempts by fly-half George Meadows. However on the halftime whistle George Jackson increased the Hawks’ lead to 8-0 with a successful penalty conversion.
The Hawks domination however was immediately challenged right at the start of the second half when flanker David Bargent crashed through after just three minutes which with a conversion by Meadows reduced the Henley lead to onepoint at 8-7. However the Hawks at last were able to have some success through a driving maul by using the support of their backs, which is their frequent tactic, which gave centre David Hankinson the opportunity to touch down which restored their lead to 13- 8. Although Jackson could not convert he was successful with a penalty after 51 minutes to give the Hawks a more comfortable lead of 15-7.
This heralded a period when the Hawks were in charge battering away at the Exmouth try line for a 15 minute period. However the home defence somehow stood firm helped by, not for the first time this season, the Hawks to being ingenious to breakthrough.
The Hawks energy levels undoubtedly reduced by their efforts whilst Exmouth encouraged by their defensive valour led to a turn in the tenor for the game and in the last fifteen minutes it was Henley who were under pressure as was referee Clarkson who resorted to the issue of yellow cards to calm the temperature of the game. The result was that the home side were reduced to 13 players in the 31st minute and the Hawks to 14after 71 minutes. The home side continued to press hard and after two further minutes lock Jake Albon was given a yellow card for foul play under the posts joining wing Xavier Andre in the sin bin alongside Exmouth’s Michael Richards and .Dan Swain.
Then came the dramatic final five minutes of the game. With apenalty awarded for Albon’s offence Exmouth indicated that they would kick the penalty where awarded under the posts and the kicking tee was presented to their new kicker Richard Cadywould . However instead of kicking for goal at the posts he changed his mind and put in a kick to the right hand corner which was collected by centre Mark Wathes who dived over the line claiming a try. After referee Clarkson, consulted with his assistant on the touch linewasawarded andconverted by Cadywouk whichwith the conversion of a further penalty three minutes later brought the final score to 20-16 in favour of Exmouth.
However the Hawks coaching team protested that the Wathes try was not valid as it was CONTRARY TOLAW 25 (1) which states on AWARD OF A PENALTY THESIDE OFFENDED MUSH INDICATE TO THE REFEREE THAT THEY INTEND TO KICK FOR GOAL (which allows the assistant referees to position themselves behind the posts to decide whether the resultant kick is successful and advise the referee accordingly). The decision to kick for goal once made is final and cannot be changed.
The referees decision is final . Therefore the try awarded to Waithes was not valid . After the game the referee admitted that his decision to award the try was incorrect. The matter has been referred to the RFU South West referees advisory body for comment.
Apart from the controversialmatter concerning the awardof the try the ultimate final score was indicative of the Hawks failure in matches this season to finish strongly enough to win closely contested games .
15. Alan Awcock, 14. Xaviar Andre 13. David Hinkinson, 12.Liam O’Neill, 11. Simon Perry ( Marcus Lowe 78), 10. Joe Butler, 9. George Jackson
1. Jim Hadfield 2. Tom Emery( Stuart Philpott) ,3.Dave Manning (Brad Cook 27), 4.Dave Clements (capt.), 5.Jake Albon, 6.Tom Hall ( Connor Morrison60), 7. Rob Bell, 8 David Hyde
16. Stuart Philpott, 17. Brad Cook, 18. Marcus Lowe, 19. Connor Morrison, James Stevenson-Wright