Hawks produce performance of the season to topple Taunton

Taunton Titans 31-42 Henley Hawks

Henley produced their best performance of the season by some way to topple the league leaders and in turn take their unbeaten record start to the season. In front of a large partisan crowd Henley took to the field in determined fashion and were on the score sheet after only eight minutes when a searing break from Joe Butler saw him carve open the Titans defence and give an inside pass for Marcus Lowe to run hard for the line, Jackson converted well.

It then got even better as a series of punishing attacks and excellent continuity play from the forwards saw Hyde break the line and dive over midway out for Jackson to once again convert and stretch the visitors lead to 14 points after only 11 minutes of play. This barrage of Henley attacks seemed to spur the league leaders into action. However they met a resolute defence with Wunder and Primett outstanding, driving the visitors back time and time again.

Henley further increased their lead as a break away in midfield was halted illegally and Jackson converted a good penalty opportunity. With a 17 point lead inside 14 minutes Henley could have relaxed but the intensity remained although a defensive lapse saw the home side reduce the lead to 10 points as their captain ran a good line to score midway out.

Although there was a stiff breeze blowing straight down the pitch Henley were determined to keep the ball in hand and ran an excellent move from deep in their own half for Jack Robinson to race some 40 metres to touch down wide out, Jackson’s superb touch line conversion went sailing between the posts. So after a frantic start Henley had scored 24 points after 22 minutes and this was to prove decisive.

Taunton replied with a good try some ten minutes later to reduce the arrears but the significance of the next score was huge. Henley were rewarded with a penalty just inside their own half. The angle was tight so a kick to the corner not really an option. There was even suggestion that they tap and kick the ball into touch to finish a great half of rugby. However up stepped loose head prop Brad Cook to kick a penalty a full 55 metres with plenty to spare to send the hawks in at half time 27 – 12 ahead.

It was important that Henley started the second half well. In recent weeks the focus has dropped at the start of the second period. However they could not have wished the second half to have started better as they retrieved their own kick off and quick hands from Butler saw Liam O Neill sprint for the line to score midway out. The difficult conversion kick was missed but most importantly the lead stretched once again.

However Taunton were not finished and came back strongly to put the visitors under pressure at scrum time which resulted in a try for the number eight as Henley were reduced to 14 men as Dave Clements was sent to the sin bin for a ruck offence. The see saw nature of the scoring continued as Henley were running into a stiff wind and kicking would have been fruitless. This brought dividends as forwards and backs alike played a high continuity game causing breaches in the Titans defence this enabled Andre to score wide out and relieve some nerves.

The final nail in the coffin was perhaps the best try of the day as Emery broke clear and a series of quick recycled ball saw Lowe go over for his second try with  7 minutes remaining. A consolation try from Taunton in the dying minutes wrapped up a superb afternoon for the Hawks. The man of the match has to go to captain Jake Albon for his relentless work around the field and superb captaincy.

Whilst many were openly surprised by the result those in and around the team knew this type of performance was just around the corner. The real test is now if the team can provide the consistency as they move into the second quarter of the season. With a tough home encounter against Bury St Edmonds this week they will have to replicate this performance to ensure success.

In the meantime the Hawks will enjoy this success and move forward with more confidence. As a footnote the away support was tremendous and the vociferous Henley spectators made the long journey home in buoyant mood.

Henley: O Neill, Robinson, Janes, Perry, Andre, Butler, Jackson, Cook, Wunder, Primett, Clements, Albon, Hyde, Bell, Lowe,  Replacements: Emery, Stock, Burn, White, Haynes.

Photos by Clayton Jane, claytonjane.co.uk