Henley Hawks 28 Redingensians Rams 24
In a game dubbed ‘The Battle of the Thames, Henley Hawks got their season off to a winning start by coming back from 24-10 down at half time to take the bragging rights in the local derby against Redingensians Rams at Dry Leas on Saturday.
It wasn’t a vintage Hawks performance, and after a first half that left many supporters worried for the season ahead, they showed huge heart and determination in the second half that in the end, their Berkshire visitors couldn’t match.
Conditions were perfect and a good crowd saw the Hawksquick out of the blocks and scored an early try through Dave Hyde when he suddenly broke through the visitors defensive line and scampered 30m to score. Connor Murphy converted.
With Henley attacking again straight afterwards, it looked as if they would add to their total but Henley then gifted the visitors a try for Jack Rossiter as he intercepted a loose pass and ran the length of the pitch to score. Humberstone converted.
A good move from the visitors backs forced a penalty that Humberstone converted to put the visitors into the lead before Murphy replied with a penalty of his own to level the scores again.
The Hawks failed to find any cohesion at this point and were guilty of making wrong choices at crucial times and failing to get some of the basics done properly. Also some aimless kicking gave the Rams the opportunity to run back at the Hawks defence and another good move from the visitors allowed centre Steven Bryant to break a weak tackle in the centre and scamper in for a try which Humberstone converted.
The Hawks struggled to keep in the game but the line out worked well for them and Dave Hyde and Marcus Lowe made some good driving runs. However, Redingensians were by far the better team in the first period, running the ball well and having a good defence. They almost scored again when another wild pass from the Hawks was intercepted once again by Rossiter. He broke clear but was caught deep into Hawks territory but he should really have made more of his sides chance.
With the Redingensians pack well on top, the half finished with the visitors camped on the Hawks line and after a series of scrums and repeated infringements, which resulted in a yellow card for Brad Cook. The Berkshire side were awarded a penalty try which gave them a 24-10 lead at half time.
Although starting the half a man down, the Hawks really took the game to Redingensians and achieved more possession and territory, putting the Rams under constant pressure. This resulted in a penalty converted by Connor Murphy.
The Hawks forwards were now starting to dominate the loose play and the breakdown with Dave Manning, Rob Bell and Tom Emery outstanding. A move involving Manning and Joe Butler almost produced a scoring opportunity. The Hawks pressure was beginning to tell and Alan Awcock pounced on a loose pass but was very unfortunate to receive a yellow card as he seemed to be obstructed as he chased the ball.
Henley responded well with a solid driving line out which resulted in a yellow card for the Rams scrum half Greg Illingworth. A succession of drives was finally finished by Rob Bell who crashed over for the Hawks second try. Murphy converted.
The visitors were beginning to show signs of tiring, and they played most of the half with 14 men which began to take its toll. The Hawks fight back was complete and they took the lead when Dave Manning finished off the Hawks’ favourite weapon, the driving line out. In this passage of play, former Henley favourite Robbie Stapley was also given a yellow card for trying to illegally bring down the driving maul.
In the final minutes, the Hawks scrum won a penalty and Murphy capped a fine performance by putting the game to bed with his second penalty and giving Henley a moral boosting win before their second local derby in successive weeks away against Chinnor on Saturday.
Tries: Hyde 2, Bell 59, Manning 71
Conversions: Murphy 2, 59,
Penalties: Murphy 12, 43, 80
Tries: Rossiter 5, Bryant 15, Penalty 40
Conversions: Humberstone 5, 15
Penalties: Humberstone 8
Referee: Ben Wilde
Half-time: Henley 10 Redingensians 24
Star man: Rob Bell (Henley)
Henley Hawks Team v Redingensians Rams
15 Joe Butler, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Alan Awcock, 12 Liam O’Neill, 11 Jack Robinson, 10 George Jackson, 9 Connor Murphy
1 Ian Stock, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Jake Albon, 5 Dave Hyde, 6 Matt Tibbatts, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Marcus Lowe
16 Juan Wunder ( for Emery ) 61 mins
17 Brad Cook ( for Stock) 33 mins
18 Michal Kruzycki ( for Hyde) 65 Mins
19 Tommy Haynes ( for Tibbatts) 75 mins
20 Harry Burn
Match Report by Nick Pitson
Match Photos courtesy of Steve Karpa