HENLEY HAWKS 15 TONBRIDGE JUDDIANS 20
Tries: Primett 48, Tibbatts 52
Conversions: Jackson 48
Penalties: Jackson 9
Tries: Coxon-Smith 21, McHugh 37, Conlon 77
Conversions: Holmes 21,
Penalties: Holmes 64
Henley Star Man: Matt Tibbatts
Referee: Thomas Davis
Halftime scoreline: Henley 3 Tonbridge Juddian 12
By Nick Pitson
After a fitting memorial to Henley club player Simon Priestley, it was an emotionally charged Dry Leas on Saturday that witnessed a committed and evenly fought contest but the Hawks couldn’t quite find a winning performance with the visiting Kent side securing victory with a try in the final few minutes.
The unforced errors that plagued the Hawks early on in the season started to reappear as they were desperate to produce a good display for the large crowd. A draw was looking the most likely and deserved result for both teams but the visitors were well organised and used the ball intelligently to force the victory. The Hawks line out, so often used as an attacking threat was not as accurate as it has been and they lost throws at crucial moments.
The opening exchanges were fast with the Hawks trying to play at pace getting the ball wide against a well organised Tonbridge defence. Dave Clements and Dave Hyde led the charges for the Hawks while the visitors were more prepared to kick for position.
Henley’s start was rewarded when George Jackson kicked an early penalty but they then put themselves under pressure immediately by trying to run the kick off out of their own 22. Possession was lost in the process which enabled Tonbridge wing Fin Coxon-Smith to break clear and score in the corner. Outside half Nathan Holmes converted.
Tonbridge were very disciplined with the ball and began to gain the upper hand. They came close to scoring a couple of times soon afterwards but Hawks wing Sam Portland was on hand to save the day on both occasions.
The visitors’ second try soon followed however, and after working their way into Hawks territory, Rory McHugh broke clear from a maul and scampered 20m to score and extend the Tonbridge lead.
The Hawks responded just before the break when George Jackson broke down the blind side and some good interplay involving Primett, Hyde and Emery very nearly created a try. This finished the first half proceedings with the visitors ahead 12-3.
Henley enjoyed their best spell after the break, keeping possession with Dave Hyde and Matt Tibbatts prominent. We enjoyed a period of good possession and worked our way into the Juddians territory. From a driving maul, Henley prop George Primett broke clear to score which Jackson converted.
Further pressure from the Hawks brought a second try soon afterwards. Matt Tibbatts capped a good performance to force his way over to score and put Henley in front. The Hawks effort cannot be faulted as they continued to look for a further score to seal the game. However despite going close, crucial handling errors gave the visitors the extra momentum they needed.
The Tonbridge forwards began to get back into the game and reverted to their pick and go tactics putting the Hawks on the back foot and with the home line out still struggling to provide any sort of platform, the visitors stole another home throw in and worked themselves into a position for Holmes to level the scores with a penalty.
At 15-15, the draw looked likely but the resilient Kent side had other ideas and scored the winning try three minutes from the end when Reece Conlon crashed over.
The Hawks still had time to save the game and another good break from Jackson put the Hawks into a good position. After a series of attacks, the ball was lost in midfield and Tonbridge we able to clear and claim victory.
15 Alan Awcock, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Simon Perry,
11 Sam Portland, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson
1 Kieran Ball, 2 Tom Emery, 3 George Primett, 4 Dave Clements,
5 Dave Hyde, 6 Scott White, 7 Tommy Haynes, 8 Matt Tibbatts
16 Will Janes Not Used
17 Joe Morris 62 mins (for Primett)
18 Juan Wunder 74 mins (for Emery)
19 Jack Robinson 66 mins (for Andre)
20 Adam Lobbock 76 mins (for O’Neill)
Match Photos courtesy of Steve Karpa