Bury St. Edmunds 37-45 Henley Hawks
A well-drilled and organised Hawks side began their 2018/19 National 2 South campaign with a thrilling 45-37 victory over Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk on Saturday.
Despite being under pressure from the kick-off, an overthrown attacking lineout from the hosts was picked up by a grateful Hawks. The ball was recycled well and debutant, Sam Randle raced away under the posts to put Henley up, 7-0.
It didn't take Bury long to get on the scoreboard. Directly from the re-start, a Hawks infringement gave the hosts a chance to cut the deficit, which they duly did making the score 7-3. A few minutes later, Bury took the lead following a superbly worked team try which saw Nick Perez cross in the corner much to the delight of a large home crowd.
That was about as good as it got for the home side in the first half as a feverish Hawks, with the bit between their teeth, stamped their authority on proceedings. First, a Xavier Andre try by the posts following a mistake from the home side, gave Joe Butler a simple conversion to make the score 14-10 to Henley. Despite the hosts reducing arrears to 14-13 with a penalty, and with Marcus Lowe in the sin bin, the Hawks, following some slick handling, gave Sam Portland the opportunity to race away for a fine try which was well converted from the touchline by Butler. However, on the stroke of half time, after a period of sustained pressure from the home side, Number 8, Tuidriva Ura, dived over the line to cut the score to 24-18 at the break.
The Hawks started the second half with real purpose. With less than two minutes on the clock, a Butler box kick fell invitingly into the fly half's hands and a great offload saw another debutant, Sam Lunnon race in untouched. Butler converted and the lead was stretched to 31-18 with a try bonus point in the bag for the Hawks. It was to get even better for Henley. Following some superb forward play, the Hawks were awarded a penalty try and a yellow card for Bury's, Sam Bixby, making it 38-18.
However, with 20 minutes still left on the clock, the home side finally woke up. With Jake Albon in the bin following a series of penalties, Pat Robinson found space in midfield and forced his way over by the posts. With the score now 38-25 to Henley, the Hawks couldn't believe their luck when they found themselves in a four-on-two position and man of the match, Butler, finished the move off with another converted try which seemingly put the game out of reach.
To give the home side credit, they finished the match very strongly with two tries scored in quick succession to bring the score back to 45-37. The last play of the game saw Ritchie agonisingly miss a penalty for the hosts which would've seen them snatch a second bonus point. As it was, they had to settle for just the one and a maximum five point return for a jubilant Hawks side.
Next up for the Hawks is Barnes at Dry Leas this Saturday, September 8th. Kick-off 3pm. It has all the ingredients for a close encounter, following the South West London outfit's impressive 33-14 victory at home to London Irish Wild Geese on Saturday.
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa; www.flickr.com/photos/steve_karpa/albums/72157670803760887