Henley Hawks 33Canterbury22
Tries: Manning 6, Portland 23, Clements 45, Perry 69, O’Neill 79
Conversions: Jackson 45
Penalties: Jackson 20, 56
Tries: T Rogers 14, Thompson 40, Braithwaite 76
Conversions: W Hilton 14, 76
Penalties: W Hilton 59
Referee: Andrew MacNeaney
Half-time: Henley 13Canterbury 12
Star man: Rob Bell (Henley)
By Nick Pitson
Any fears of the Henley being sucked into a relegation tussle were eased at Dry Leas on Saturday as the Hawks put in a hugely committed performance to overcome a much larger Canterbury side who had enjoyed a good run of success in recent weeks.
The Hawks outscored their visitors by five tries to three and although they also spurned a number of other good chances, they played with such intensity throughout the match that in the end it was too much for Canterbury to deal with.
The Hawks showed their intent after only six minutes when good work from Liam O’Neill set up Prop Dave Manning to finish off a series of attacks to score in the corner.
As has been the case on many occasions this season, the Hawks then gave the initiative straight back to the men from Kent. A Hawks scrum was overpowered and then Tom Rogers finished off a driving line out as the larger Canterbury forwards began showed their power. Will Hilton converted.
Henley though were tenacious, and with Rob Bell and Dave Clements outstanding, they regained the lead with a George Jackson penalty following a yellow card for Canterbury’s Dan Clarke. The Hawks made the extra man count almost straight away with the forwards winning another turnover penalty. Henley then launched an attack from inside their own half and good passing from the back line put Sam Portland into space and he showed great skill to outpace the visitors’ defence to score a well worked try and give the Hawks a 13-7 lead.
The Hawks continued to show an attacking mindset with Joe Butler looking threatening but they then lost concentration. What appeared to be a knock on was not spotted by the referee and the Hawks allowed winger Kieran Thompson to race clear and score in the corner for Canterbury. With the conversion missed, the Hawks led 13-12 at the interval.
The Hawks refused to buckle and if anything, increased their level of intensity in the second half and gradually began to wear down the Canterbury forwards.
Henley turned down a couple of kickable penalty chances early in the half but rewarded soon afterwards with a try from skipper Dave Clements who finished off a driving maul from a line out. Jackson converted.
The game began to open up with both sides showing a willingness to spread the ball wide. The Hawks were better at utilising the space, and although a bit frantic at times, the constant Hawks pressure never allowed Canterbury to gain any sort of momentum.
Connor Hayhow, who was excellent throughout, and Liam O’Neill were constant threats and prop Ziana Montout-Alexis also went close. A number of try scoring chances were created by the Hawks but were not converted as a lack of composure appeared at the crucial moments.
Jackson then extended the Hawks’ lead by another three points with a penalty.
Again Canterbury were let back into the game as Henley infringed in trying to run out of their own 22 and Hilton kicked three points for the visitors.
The Hawks responded in brilliant fashion as Simon Perry broke clear only to be stopped just short of the line under the Canterbury posts. The Hawks won a penalty and the driving maul crossed the line only for the referee to be unsighted. Perry then took a simple pass from Jackson to score the Hawks bonus point try from the resulting five metre scrum.
However, Canterbury again replied and after a period of pressure on the Henley line, Kyan Braithwaite crossed for their third try and Hilton converted.
It could have been a nervy last five minutes for the home supporters but their fears were quickly allayed as the Hawks provided a great attacking move with Xavier Andre cutting through and Liam O’Neill crossing wide out to give the Hawks a deserved victory.
Photos courtesy of Steve Karpa:
15 Liam O’Neill, 14 Simon Perry, 13 Xavier Andre, 12 Connor Hayhow, 11 Sam Portland, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson,
1 Dave Manning, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Ziana Montoya-Alexis , 4 Dave Hyde, 5 Jake Albon, 6 Dave Clements, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Marcus Lowe
Reps: 16 Stuart Phillpott, 17 Jim Hatfield, 24 Tommy Haynes, 19 James Stevenson-Wright, 20 Scott White