The Henley Hawks Colts crowned a memorable season by defeating Bromsgrove at the Worcester Warriors Stadium to win the RFU’s National Under 17 final.
In the course of an enthralling encounter, the opening ten minutes were perhaps the most significant in determining Henley’s ultimate success.
Bromsgrove pounded the Henley line during this period but heroic tackling especially from Morgon Zolkwer & Ivor Langley kept them at bay and, as often happens in rugby, the attacking side began to doubt its methods against such resolute and organised defence.
A moment of indecisiveness by the Bromsgrove inside backs saw Henley fly-half, Jamie Winch, break the line and gain some forty metres up-field.
The Henley support work was highly efficient and they surged into the Bromsgrove ‘22’, where flanker Alex O’Brien was unstoppable as he gathered the ball and charged over for the opening try (5-0).
Bromsgrove came back forcefully and continued to dominate territorially but Henley’s astute scrum-half, Ben Venner, combined well with O’Brien, Henry Heath and number 8, James Rhodes, to probe weak links in the opposing defence and Henley were able to fashion a second foray deep into their opponents’ half.
Good ball was secured and Henley full back, Will Parton, capitalised on some quick off-loading to accelerate through a wavering defence and present a well-timed inside pass.
Callum Brady was on hand to take the ball but he still had work to do before crashing over for Henley’s second try and a 10-0 lead at the interval.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Bromsgrove kicking for position and relying on their catch and drive to create the opening with Henley forced to absorb an immense amount of pressure.
Bromsgrove possessed a formidable pack but yet again Henley’s front-line tight forwards – Henry Macleod, Will Thomsett, Sam Williams and Scott Carey – did not conceded an inch.
Excellent timing between throwers, Hugo Matthews and Tom Grenfell, and jumpers, Ed Houghton and Ivor Langley, enabled Henley to win their share of line-out ball, whilst Bromsgrove used their possession to create their rolling maul that became increasingly effective as the game unfolded.
Bromsgrove scored their first points through a penalty well into the second half (10-3) and then, desperate to set-up the elusive try, they were tempted to try the long pass which had been a useful part of their opponents’ play.
The pass was superbly intercepted by the Henley centre, Rhys Edwards, deep in their own half and moments later he had scored a try under the posts that was converted by Jamie Winch to give Henley a 17-3 lead.
The try was just reward for a Henley backline – Edwards, Henry Heath, Harry Wray, Callum Brady and Charlie Gibbon – that ran strongly and defended magnificently.
Bromsgrove were not finished, however, and with their rolling maul operating relatively smoothly they were able to score twice in the final few minutes and move within striking distance of the lead (17-13).
In a final tense session with almost six minutes of injury time , Tom Priestley at number 8 was prominent in all phases of the game whilst Will Properjohn and Oscar James were most effective substitutions in providing the necessary energy to combat Bromsgrove’s final onslaught.
1. Will Thomsett
2. Hugo Matthews (Sub 16. Tom Grenfell 40mins)
3. Henry MacLeod (Sub 17. Scott Carey 40mins)
4. Ed Houghton
5. Morgan Zolkwer (Sub 18. Sam Williams 50 mins)
6. Ivor Langley (Sub 22. Oscar James 55mins)
7. Alex O’Brien
8. James Rhodes (Sub 19. Tom Priestley 40mins)
9. Ben Venner(Sub 21. Charlie Gibbon 55mins)
10. Jamie Winch
11. Harry Wray
12. Rhys Edwards
13. Henry Heath
14. Callum Brady (Sub 20. Will Properjohn 55 mins)
15. Will Parton
RFU Man of the Match: James Rhodes
Game Commentary Pundits Man of the Match: Jamie Winch
Coaches Man of the Match: Was the whole 22 squad & their huge defensive effort, but special mention in most likely his last game for Henley is Alex O’Brien