HENLEY HAWKS 14-19 TONBRIDGE JUDDIANS
By Nick Pitson
There was disappointment and frustration at Dry Leas on Saturday as the Henley Hawks slipped to their second defeat of the season at the hands of Tonbridge Juddians.
The Hawks will be disappointed that they couldn’t produce a performance to match those in the first two weeks. Their performance was littered with unforced errors, which handed the initiative to the visitors who took their chances well.
The match was played throughout in driving rain, particularly in the second half and it was the men from Kent who managed the conditions much more effectively, despite the Hawks winning the try count two to one.
Henley started brightly, and despite an early missed penalty chance that would have put the Hawks in front, stand out forwards Dave Hyde and Alex Bradley excelled in taking the ball forward and driving powerfully to gain good ground for the home side.
However, this was the only meaningful visit by the Hawks into the Tonbridge half for over twenty minutes as the visitors began to take control. Mistakes started to creep into the Hawks game and dropped passes along with missed touch kicks handed the initiative to the visitors.
The Hawks didn’t seem to get the rub of the green from the referee and they were guilty of offside twice in three minutes which gave ex-Hawk Will Robinson the chance to kick two penalties.
Tonbridge increased their lead with their only try when a box kick from Henley scrum half Rory MacDougall was collected by the Juddians winger Hugo Watson who managed to run through a number of Henley defenders before a scissor pass enabled fellow wing Murray Galbraith-Lowe to touchdown. Robinson converted.
A further offside penalty was conceded by the Hawks and prop Rory Mason collected an unfortunate yellow card and Robinson made no mistake with the penalty to give the visitors a 16-0 lead.
Tonbridge then collected a yellow card of their own which gave the Hawks the opportunity to get writhing scoring distance. A line out won by Dave Hyde gave the forwards the chance to drive at the visitors’ line with Connor Morrison and Bradley going close. A second line-out drive was illegally stopped by the Kent side and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty try to the Hawks.
As the second half started, the rain had become much heavier. Tonbridge gained the initiative straight away and made good ground through their forwards as they adopted a ‘pick and go’ approach to attacking. Their ball recycling was much quicker than the Hawks and they almost increased their lead but for a great tackle from Henley wing Jack Robinson.
Henley’s spirit, like last week was excellent but just when it looked as though they could create something, they either lost possession or needlessly kicked the ball away when better options were available. The Hawks were then unluckily penalised for pulling a scrum down and Robinson increased the lead for Tonbridge.
When the chance came, the Hawks back row of Sam Lunnon, Marcus Lowe and Alex Bradley continued to try and give the Hawks some attacking momentum.
At this point, with the visitors pack visibly tiring, excellent work in the front row from Dave Manning, Tom Emery and Rory Mason meant the Hawks scrum was in total control and a massive effort from the pack resulted in what looked like a shift in momentum in the game. Connor Morrison almost got over from a crash ball move. Simon Perry went close following another scrum close to the Tonbridge line before Alex Bradley crashed over for the try which Roddy Giles converted.
Any thoughts of a Henley revival were dashed as Tonbridge gathers themselves together for the final few minutes. Despite a renewed vigour from the Henley side, the visitors kept the ball and then kicked intelligently. They worked their way into Hawks territory and could have robbed the home side of the one bonus point they had earned but Robinson’s penalty came back off the post.
The Hawks spirit throughout was good and they managed to disrupt a Tonbridge line out towards the end but they couldn’t get out of their own half to threaten the scoreboard.
Big thanks to G.D Evans Interiors for sponsoring the match and to The Head Partnership for sponsoring the Match Ball and the Beer Festival. It was fantastic to see so many people brave the weather and support the day. Congratulations to Rory Mason on his man of the match performance (pictured below with Gary Evans).
Match Photos courtesy of Steve Karpa; https://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_karpa/albums/72157701362939034
15. Roddy Giles, 14. Jack Robinson, 13. Connor Morrison, 12. Simon Perry, 11. Jack Antoniou, 10. Joe Butler, 9. Ross McDougall
1. Dave Manning, 2. Tom Emery, 3. Rory Mason, 4. Dave Hyde, 5. Jake Albon, 6. Sam Lunnon (Capt), 7. Marcus Lowe, 8. Alex Bradley
George Primett, (for Mason) 79mins
Adam Neale (for Antoniou) 79mins
Finn Pietersen (for Robinson) 35mins
Leo Webb (for Butler) 55mins