The Henley Vikings took a huge step towards winning the BBO2 league on Saturday, 11th March with a hard fought 22-11 win over fellow title contenders Newbury IIs at Dry Leas. Three tries from Hooker Callum Cooke, two conversions and a Penalty from fly-half Danny Hawkins were enough to see the Vikings home and deny Newbury a losing bonus point.
The result means that Henley top the BBO2 table with 74 points leaving Newbury just behind on 73 with two matches to play.
The sides had already met once earlier in the season, Newbury prevailing 13-8 in a highly committed and physical game. With both teams having already secured promotion into BBO 1 for next season they each knew that the winner of this return fixture would almost certainly go on to win the League.
Newbury had the best of the opening exchanges and took a deserved 3-0 lead after a penalty kick. But Henley quickly responded with two tries from Callum Cooke, deputising at hooker for injured skipper Owyn Thatcher, each set up by clean breaks from Toby Venner and Elliott Quelch respectively. The second of these tries was converted by Hawkins, to give Henley a 12-3 lead midway through the first half. Newbury responded with a Try from a driving maul to close the gap to the hosts leaving the half time score 12-8.
The anti was upped further by Newbury at the start of second half. A good spell of continued pressure resulted in another successful penalty kick reducing the hosts lead to 12-11. But a combination of handling errors from the away side and committed Henley defence meant that these would be the last points Newbury would score.
The game was settled during a 10 minute spell midway through the second half. Typically choosing to go off the top from the lineout to give ball to their backs, the Henley packed broke with this convention and engineered a third try for Cooke after a superb 15 metre driving maul from a lineout. This decisive score was converted by Hawkins and he added another 3 points soon after from a penalty kick to extend the lead to 22-11.
The Vikings defence, led by skipper Andy Unsworth, was resolute throughout the final 10 minutes Preventing Newbury from any further scores thus denying them a losing bonus point. The full time whistle was greeted with cheers of delight from the Henley players and sizable crowd which had gathered, all of whom agreed that this was a thoroughly committed and enjoyable game to witness.
With two home games remaining against the bottom two teams in the League, two bonus point wins will secure the Henley Vikings a richly deserved league title.
Cooke x 3
Hawkins x 2
Team: 15 Ben Wiltshire, 14 Jake Jordan, 13 Lewes Collins, 12 Elliott Quelch, 11 Olly Vine, 10 Danny Hawkins, 9 Toby Venner, 8 Dan Folley, 7 Chris Parrott, 6 Craig Johnston, 5 James Thomas, 4 Andy Unsworth ©, 3 James Owen, 2 Callum Cooke, 1 Charlie Chavasse. Subs: 16 Mo Bangura, 17 Simon Annan, 18 Ben Richard
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa www.flickr.com/photos/steve_karpa/albums/72157681252421606