THE RAMS 43-13 HENLEY HAWKS
By Nick Pitson
Henley Hawks had to settle for second best in the local derby clash against The Rams at Old Bath Road on Saturday.
The Rams were too good, well drilled and outscored the Hawks in the end by seven tries to two and on this performance they will be one of the serious challengers for the league title. The home side turned the screw in the second half starving the Hawks of any worthwhile possession and dominating the set pieces, in particular the scrums.
That said, the Hawks more than matched the Berkshire side in the first half hour, taking the game to the Rams and creating a number of their own chances. They also gave it their all, right to the final whistle.
The opening exchanges were fast, physical and even as both teams tore into each other. The Rams were surprised at the Hawks physicality and the home side was pressurised into making a number of handling errors which the Hawks capitalised on.
Dave Hyde, Tom Emery, Marcus Lowe and the excellent Alex Bradley were at the forefront of the Hawks good work early on. From a driving line out, centre Connor Morrison, Hyde and Emery went close but the Rams defence held firm.
A break from former Hawk, Robbie Stapley was snuffed out by Joe Butler and further pressure from the Hawks led to another attacking line out. A great drive from the forwards won a penalty and Joe Butler converted it to give the Hawks the lead.
However, there were ominous signs from the first scrum as the Hawks pack were pushed back under great pressure from the Rams eight.
The Rams gradually began to find their feet and although not fluent at this point, they created a chance for Alex Seers to throw a dummy and score.
The Hawks responded well. A good break from Connor Morrison was well supported by Alex Bradley but Jack Robinson was stoped just short of the corner flag.
A good drive then from the Hawks pack resulted in a penalty and yellow card for the Rams Ben Henderson. Henley turned down the kick at goal and from the resulting line out, an excellent drive was finished off by Tom Emery who touched down for the Hawks first try.
The Hawks tackling was ferocious but back came the Rams and after working their way deep into Hawks territory, scrum half Miles Lloyd eventually crashed over for a try which Alex Seers converted to give the Rams a 12-8 lead.
It was at this point that the Rams were really beginning to exert some control over the game and after a Henley error, and a quick penalty from Lloyd, a solid driving maul from a line out finished with Tom Vooght crossing to give the Rams a 17-8 lead at half time.
The second half was a story of the Hawks spending long periods in their own half. The Rams were a yard quicker, but more importantly controlled possession and despite some heroic Hawks defence at times, gaps started to appear for the home side to exploit.
Miles Lloyd controlled the game for the Rams and an unlucky yellow card for the Hawks Simon Perry put extra pressure on the Henley defence. Eventually that pressure told and Colin Thompson crossed for the Rams bonus point try.
The Hawks to their credit kept their spirit and were rewarded with a try from the excellent Sam Lunnon who finished a good short side move involving Dave Hyde.
The Rams continued to dominate and after a series of scrums where the Hawks were under immense pressure, Robbie Stapley crossed for the Rams fifth try which Seers converted.
The Hawks at this stage we’re living off very little possession and when they did get into Rams territory, errors that hadn’t appeared in the first half came to the surface with some overthrown line outs and poor kicks.
Henley’s commitment was excellent right to the end but further tries from Baker and Duffelen ensured another comfortable victory and local bragging rights for the home side.
Despite an uncomfortable scoreline, there were positives for Henley to take into their next game at home to Tonbridge Juddians next Saturday.
Match Photos courtesy of Steve Karpa;
Roddy Giles, Jack Robinson, Connor Morrison, Simon Perry, Sam Portland, Joe Butler, Leo Webb, Ian Stock, Tom Emery, Rory Mason, Adam Neale, Dave Hyde, Sam Lunnon, Marcus Lowe, Alex Bradley
George Primett (for Stock) 22 mins
Dave Manning (for Mason) 49 mins
Scott White (for Lowe) 74mins
Liam Goodson (for Hyde) 54 mins
Ross MacDougall (for Webb) 41mins
Tries: Seers 21, Lloyd 29, Vooght 38, Thompson 48, Stapley 60, Baker 73, Duffelen 80
Conversions: Seers 30, 49, 74, Richardson 75
Tries: Emery 25, Lunnon 53
Penalties: Butler 14
Referee: James Clarke
Halftime scoreline: Rams 17 Henley Hawks 8