Henley Hawks 17 Redingensians Rams 12
Tries: O’Neill 5, 10, Penalty 31
Conversions: Jackson 31
Tries: Rossiter 58,Thomson 64,
Conversions: Atkins 64
Referee: Philip Davies
Half-time: Henley 17 Redingensians0
Star man: Tom Hall (Henley)
In a pulsating encounter, Henley Hawks produced a match winning first half performance and claimed the bragging rights over local rivals Redingensians with a hard fought 17-12 victory.
With a new year, came a renewed intent from the Hawks, who looked up for the contest early on and shocked their visitors with a dominant and competent display that gave them a 17-0 lead at the break and belied their low position in the league table.
The Hawks exerted pressure from the start and an early penalty gave them a good attacking line out. Dave Hyde secured the line out and a good driving maul from the forwards was finished off by Liam O’Neill who was awarded the first try of the game. The driving line out has been a weapon that has been successful on more than one occasion for the Hawks this season. Despite the missed conversion, the home side kept up the pressure with skipper Dave Clements and the back row of Dave Hyde, Rob Bell and Tom Hall dominating proceedings.
With the visitors rarely getting into Henley territory, the Hawks enjoyed most of the possession and consistently put the Rams on the back foot as they tried to extend their lead. After ten minutes and a period of sustained pressure, the Hawks’ backs showed their skills giving Joe Butler an opportunity to cut through a gap in the Rams defence and give the scoring pass to O’Neill for his second try.
The Hawks forwards were dominating the game, especially at the breakdown and Tom Emery, Dave Hyde and Rob Bell secured good yards and helped build the Hawks momentum.
At this stage, the Rams offered very little offensively other than defending stoutly for long periods such was the Hawks commitment. They were unable to get any sort of foothold in the game and with continued Hawks pressure, the visitors hooker Ben Henderson was given a yellow card for pulling down another Hawks driving maul just short of the line. Turning down an easy three points and after a series of scrums, the referee had eventually had no option but to award the Hawks a penalty try. George Jackson converted and the Hawks went into the break with a commanding lead 17-0 lead.
The Hawks could not sustain anything like the levels of dominance of the first period and, the second half was full of frustration, errors and infringements which allowed the Rams, along with their improved commitment, back into the game.
The visitors scrum began to dominate and skipper Robbie Stapley and wing forward Andrew Amor began to take control of the loose play.
Indecision in the Henley ranks allowed a Rams attack to develop which eventually saw Jack Rossiter, take advantage of a fortunate bounce from a chip through to score the Rams first try.
This seemed to galvanise the Rams further and shortly after, a drive by former Hawk Robbie Stapley created the space for Colin Thomson to score his sides second try which Atkins converted to set up a nervous finish.
The final twenty minutes were frantic with no quarter asked or given by both teams and although the Rams threatened briefly, the Hawks had very few major problems to contend with despite a yellow card for the excellent Connor Hayhow who fell foul of the new laws on high tackles. Tom Hall and Rob Bell continued to excel at the breakdown and Dave Hyde managed to steal crucial ball at the line out. Wins are very important for the Hawks at the moment and at half time it looked as if it would be by a comfortable margin. However, it is a win, against local rivals and a positive start to the new year.
Report by Nick Pitson
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa: https://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_karpa/albums
15 James Comben, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Connor Hayhow, 12 Liam O’Neill, 11 Simon Perry, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson, 8 Davies Hyde, 7 Rob Bell, 6 Tom Hall, 5 Jake Albion, 4 Dave Clements (Capt), 3 Dave Manning, 2 Tom Emery, 1 James Hadfield
Reps: Bradley Cook (48) for Hadfield
Stuart Phillpott (64) for Emery
James Stevenson-Wright (64) for Jackson
Marcus Lowe (73) for Clements
Connor Morrison (79) for Hall
George Jackson (79) for Stevenson-Wright