Henley Hawks approached this game against Barnes with justifiableconfidence after a well merited performance at Dry Leas the previous Saturdayagainst mid -table Canterbury to ease the threat of relegation. They also approached this match assured they could not repeat one of their worst performances of the season when away at Barnes they were defeated 36-14 by a recentlypromoted side.
However from the start of this game Henley supporters got a distinct feeling of dajavu. After 14 minutes they were seven points in arrears when Barnes, in clearing from an Hawks attack with a kick deep into the home side’s 22,Hawks’ full back Liam O’Neill, with confidence, tried to run out pastthe advancing Barnes backs, unsupported. This led to wing Robbie Martey scoring a try close to the posts which fullback Tom O’Toole converted with ease to put the visitors 7-0 in the lead.. Indeed he was in excellent 100% kicking form with three penalties added before half-time by which time Barnes led 16-0!
After the scoring of the Barnes try the Hawks took the game close to the visitors line. However their attacking play was punctuated by handling errors whichcame from frenetic play which consisted of trying to move the ball wide through their backs plagued with a number of handling errors, maybe due in part to playing in cold drizzly windy conditions. Barnes were therefore not out under a great deal of pressure and they retained possession far better than the Hawks sensibly using short more clinical passing.
However after nearly fifteen minutes the game was influenced by what appeared to be a game changing incident. The Hawks mounted a driving maul near the visitors posts but this was stopped by centre David Butler kicking out at a Hawks player. Referee Robert Teare dealt immediately with this by the issue of a red card reducing the visitors to fourteen men for the remainder of the game.
Sadly the Hawks could not use this numerical advantage to their benefit. Indeed in taking the game to the Hawks half on a number of occasions for the remaining 25minutesBarnes earned three penalties for various offences which were all converted to make the score 16-0 at half-time
The Hawks changed their tactics on the restart and reverted to the most successful method of attack they have used all season – the driving maul- supported invariably by inclusion of some of the backs. This immediately put the Hawks on the score board when hooker Tom Emery grounded the ball after an attacking line out ( which was again the mostsuccessful source of Hawks’ possession). This try was not converted but they scored again just ten minutes later from a similar move. The scorer on this occasion was flanker Tom Hall who had replaced Tom Haynes.
Indeed the use of thefresh legsof prop ZianaMontout -Alexisand Hall was vital in putting the Hawks in charge of the game. This was especially so when Hall collected a loose ball at pace thirty minutes from the Barnes line and swept through unmolested to touch down. Unfortunately this score was not majorised as Jackson’s kick crashed against an upright.
The game was now on a knife edge with about 17 minutes to go. The Hawks on three occasions came close to scoring again through driving mauls. They were put on the attack in the Barnes half by strong bursts down the left by recent signingof wing Ben Rath from London Scottish .Barnes continued to lead 16-15!
With two minutes of the game remaining they moved the ball wide through their backs from leftto right to get the winning score. With the attack switched to the right Barnes gaveaway a penalty about thirty metres out to the right of the posts. Jackson had the result of the game dependant on his first successful kick of the game . In high tension his kick went through the posts.
The Hawks thus earned a further four valuable points to stave off relegation.
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa:
Henley Hawks v Barnes
15. Liam O’Neill,14.Ben Rath, 13. Xavier Andre, 12. Connor Hayhow, 11. Simon Perry, 10. Joe Butler, 9. George Jackson, 1. James Hadfield (Ziana Montout -Alexis 41), 2. Tom Emery ( Stuart Philpott 75), 3. Dave Manning, 4. Dave Clements (capt.), 5.Jake Albon, 6. David Hyde, 7. Tom Haynes ( Tom Hall 51),8. Marcus Lowe.