HENLEY HAWKS 28 CHINNOR 33
Tries: Robinson 7, Andre 25, O’Neill 59, Tibbatts 80
Conversions: Jackson 7, 25, 59, 80
Tries: McDonald 14, Oliver 18, Chesters 37, Bordill 40, Manning 43
Conversions: Hopkin 18, 37, 40, 43
Star Man: Dave Hyde (Henley)
Referee: Phillip Davies
Halftime scoreline: Henley 14 Chinnor 26
By Nick Pitson
A bumper, Christmas crowd enjoyed a pulsating local derby with Chinnor eventually claiming the Oxfordshire bragging rights with a hard fought victory over Henley Hawks at Dry Leas on Saturday.
The visitors kept their unbeaten record intact but were given a stern test by the Hawks who scored four tries themselves putting in a gutsy and committed display and deservedly claiming two bonus points of their own.
Henley however, were their own worst enemy at times, putting pressure on themselves and when it mattered, Chinnor were quicker to capitalise on the mistakes made by the home side. That said, the Hawks had their chances.
And it was the Hawks who struck first. Right from the start they showed great intent and immediately took the game to the league leaders, playing possession rugby with Matt Tibbatts and Tommy Haynes leading the charges.
Eventually Sam Portland found some space, did well to stay in play collecting his own kick ahead and some slick handling between Portland, Liam O’Neill and Jack Robinson saw Robinson cross for the opening try which George Jackson converted.
Chinnor showed they are unbeaten for a reason and responded immediately. Once they were on the front foot, their attack was quick and clinical leading Henley to rue a number of mistakes.
Having lost the first scrum on their own ball, the Hawks then failed to win their first line out and from the resulting attack, Chinnor scrum half Mike McDonald scored a good try for the visitors.
Chinnor kept up the pressure and took the lead with a simple try from George Oliver who broke a weak Henley tackle to score. This time Bertie Hopkin converted and the visitors led 12-7.
The game was fast and frantic with both sides showing total commitment. The Hawks played a possession game, keeping the ball in hand in all areas of the field whereas Chinnor were prepared to kick for position if necessary.
Henley enjoyed good periods of possession and eventually created a position from which to attack. Matt Tibbatts led a strong driving maul and with Dave Hyde’s help, created enough space for the backs where Xavier Andre cut through the Chinnor defence to score and George Jackson’s conversion put the Hawks back in front.
Chinnor then immediately restored their lead with a similar try for wing Phil Chesters following some good passing involving ex Hawk Connor Hayhow. Hopkin converted.
With half time imminent, the game was finely balanced but the Hawks then gifted Chinnor a try with an interception to Will Bordill, the visitors back row forward. The Hawks can consider themselves a little unlucky as most onlookers considered him to be standing in an offside position when he collected Henley’s loose pass but conversion by Hopkin gave the visitors a 26-14 half time lead and seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Hawks side for a while.
Chinnor extended their lead just after the break when Henley tried to play out of their own 22, the move broke down and visiting forward Ben Manning picked up the loose ball to scamper over from 25m. Hopkin added the conversion and with a lead of 33-14, the game looked out of reach for the Hawks.
However, to their credit, the Hawks never gave up and Chinnor were not to score again in the game. There were courageous performance from Dave Clements, Matt Tibbatts and the outstanding Dave Hyde for Henley. Despite good possession, the Hawks found it difficult to break down the Chinnor defence who were well organised and aggressive at the breakdown, winning a number of turnovers to stifle any Hawks attack.
Eventually though, pressure told and a clearing Chinnor kick was charged down by Liam O’Neill and he collected the ball and ran twenty metres to score. The conversion from Jackson gave the Hawks some hope.
The last ten minutes was littered with stoppages but the Hawks showed great character and got their just reward right at the end with a try under the posts from Matt Tibbatts. Jackson converted to end an excellent afternoons’ rugby.
15 Jack Robinson, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Simon Perry, 11 Sam Portland, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson, 1 George Primett, 2 Juan Wunder, 3 Joe Morris, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Jake Albon, 6 Dave Hyde, 7 Tommy Haynes, 8 Matt Tibbatts
17 Matt Hodson (For Wunder) 53 mins
21 Jim Hadfield (For Primett) 80 mins
18 Scott White (For Haynes) 48 mins
20 Iwan MacRae (For Portland) 80 mins
19 Will Janes (For Butler) 41 mins