Clifton 27pts Henley Hawks 29 pts
The Hawks continued their winning streak at Clifton but as the previous week against Barnes the result hung in the balance until the final kick of the game .
Played in windy but surprisingly dry conditions it was a struggle between two sides who were prone to error through out which led to scores in a match which produced nine tries. This was, then, an exciting game for spectators to watch if not one to arouse admiration as far as skill was concerned.
The Hawks had the advantage of a brisk wind at the start and with this most of the first half was played in the Clifton half. However the Hawks were slow to get into their stride and conceded two tries in the first 30 minutes . The first came after just tenminutes and this came from a kick to five metres in the corner from a penalty which resulted in a drive over the Hawks line which HenryHarper was able to touch down with support from his supporting pack. This was not converted in the difficult kicking conditions.
Although the Hawks now took the game into the Clifton half they could not use the wind to put pressure on the home half although a penalty attempt byGeorge Jackson was not able to take advantage of this. Indeed the Hawks fell further behind when Clifton sent their backs on a handling move from half way led by skipper Dan Wells. They drove into the Hawks’22 wherefragile tackling allowed supportingflanker Max Woodward to cross for a try near the posts
It was then the Hawks got on the scoreboard when left wing Sam Portland dislodge the ball in a tackle close to the half way line. He immediately picked up the looseball and using his pace strode away from a non-existentdefence to cross half wayfrom touch. This try convered by fly-half Joe Butler put the Hawks just three points in arrears.
They now started to take the game to Clifton and the pack began to move forward especially using their favourite mode of attack- the driving maul. Flanker Tom Hall was able to work his way through for a tryafter 34 minutes’ This was followed by a scavenging Liam o’Neill following an attack beating the Clofton defence to a touch down putti ng the Hawks 19 13ahead at half -time. Barnes having kicked a penalty for Cliftonjust before Hall’s touch down
The second half started with a comedy of kicking errors with neither side being able to put the ball in to touch except on the full out side their 22 areas. The Hawks eventually controlled the capricious wind well enough to again put an attack in with the ball having been kicked over the Clifton try line and O’Neill again scramblingto good effect beat the Clifton to a touch down. The Hawks were now 24-15 in the lead Barnes having reduced their lead with a penalty after 45 minutes
In a relatively rare attack Clifton put pressure on the Hawks ina line out and prop Alex Giltrowwas able to barge his way through for another unconverted try with the last quarter of the game remaining. With20 minutest to go thr game was still open for either side to win with the score at 24-20 to the HawksHereabouts the game meandered on losing momentum in part because of referee David Conways extraordinarlygenerous interpretation of the advantage law which served to slow the game down.
However the match appeared to be going the Hawks’ way when again Portland with his decisive elusive running burst through close to touch on the left to touchdown but Butler failed to convert. Howeverthe Hawks’ were now 29-20 in the lead with ten minutes to go and theyseemed to be easing to an important victory. However Clifton now counter attacked with a powerful burst by replacement Will Pomphreyfrom their 22 to putcentre Jack Newey over for a try which , however, he could not convert with Hawks’ just 29-27. In the lead.
They were still under pressure with referee Conwaystill not blowing the final whistle.
The last moments of the game came with Newey asked to kick a penalty from 35 metres half way to touch to winthe game. Onlyseven days before the Hawks faced defeat against Barnes at Dry Leas buta similar kick by George Jackson won that game for the Hawks . The air was full of tension as Neweyapproached this vital kick to win the match. To the Hawks relief he failed toconvert . The Hawks came away from the game also reflecting on their good fortune when Giltrow’s try was not converted. From in front of the posts Barnes’ kickcrashed into an upright.. C’est la Vie!
15.Liam O’Neill, 14. Sam Portland 13. Xavier Andre 12. Connor Hayhow ( Harry Burn 30), 11. Simon Perry, 10. Joe Butler, 9. George Jackson, 1. Dave Manning, 2. Stuart Philpott ( Tom Emery 61),3. Zian Montout-Alexis) 4. Dave Clements ( capt. David Hyde 68), 5. Jake Albon, 6. Tom Hall ( Tommy Haynes 76), 7. Rob Bell, 8. David Hyde ( Scott White (30)