By Rob Heginbotham
Henley Vultures (the Veterans) continued their unbeaten campaign this season with a strong performance against Guildford Vets on Saturday, the final score being 36 point to nil.
A strong start by the Vultures saw them race into a 17-point lead after 10 minutes, which was certainly not expected against one of the stronger sides in the league. The early tries were scored by the experienced forwards Jim Hadfield and Ben Glossop after good driving and phase play up front, and then by the flying Kaz Meloshi, who beat 4 defenders with sheer pace over 50 meters after strong tackling by Chris Darke had forced a turn-over.
However, Guildford then woke up and became much more competitive, and it was not until 15 minutes into the second half that the Vultures scored again.
The Guildford revival coincided with a number of silly errors from the Henley men, who probably thought they had the game in the bag after 10 minutes, and it soon became clear that they would have to work hard to achieve victory.
The Guildford back line looked dangerous when they did get some possession, but some strong defensive work by the Vultures, especially from the tireless lock forwards Tim Simmonds and Adie Smith (although the latter was playing back-row on this occasion).
The Vultures pack is now becoming feared on the circuit, and they had a competent and sizeable looking Guildford unit on the retreat in the tight for much of the game, and also won the line-out battle. It was particularly good to see Ben Fennell back playing now that his work commitments have eased.
The second half scoring was started by debutant John Nicholls, who has played for both the Bulls and Vikings this year, and his massive work rate belies his 49 years. He will be a major asset for the campaign to come.
The biggest cheer after the afternoon was reserved for David O’Leary, who having come onto the left wing at half-time, capped a fine performance with a pacy weaving run to the corner from over 40 meters out. Great to see Dave back and enjoying his Rugby after what looked like a career ending injury 18 months ago.
The final score went to Adie Smith after a period of strong pressure just before the final whistle. Adie was also awarded the Man of the Match award, and despite his otherwise excellent showing, one piece of shambolic incompetence was enough to see Jim Hadfield the “Booby of the Day Award”, which he accepted with great honour!!
The Vultures have a very busy programme with 12 games in the second half of the season, followed by the Simon Priestley Memorial Veterans 10’s Tournament which will take place on 11th and 12th May. Next up is an away fixture against the Harlequin Gentlemen Amateurs on 26th January.