Canterbury 33-26 Henley Hawks
It was heartbreak at the death on Saturday as Henley eventually succumbed to a ruthless Canterbury side who simply would not lie down. Twice throughout the afternoon the visitors had established a reasonably healthy lead only for the hosts to show dogged determination to overhaul the Hawks ascendancy.
With Canterbury proudly holding a 100% home record, Henley knew they were in for a tough assignment and the game started at a furious pace with no side giving way. Defences were tested as each side imposed their physicality on the game. It was Henley who gave way first as the home side winger Moss broke the deadlock at the end of the first quarter, he was also able to run around under the posts to make the conversion straightforward.
This was to signify Henley having their best phases of play as they laid siege to the hosts line. Powerful driving play and some slick hands saw David Hyde crash over after 20 minutes and this was quickly followed by Jake Albon after a powerful driving maul. Both scores were converted by the ever reliable boot of Ben Bolster.
It was to get even better for the Hawks as Prop Ian Stock, back after a lengthy injury, picked a good line to crash under the posts once again Ben Bolster was on hand to add the conversion. At 21 -7 it looked promising for Henley . They were even able to withstand an onslaught just before half time, at this point Canterbury couldn’t find a way through an outstanding defence set by Henley and so Henley went into half time with a promising fourteen point cushion.
It was important that they were able to improve on this quickly to ask some serious questions of the home side’s resilience. However , Canterbury were quickly on the scoreboard following a quick tap penalty deep in the visitors 22.
Henley needed to respond quickly as this they duly did with an excellent break from Henley winger George Wood was well supported by Ben Bolster and the fly half scored wide out the conversion hitting the upright. From the re start Canterbury kicked the ball directly into touch and a scrum was awarded on the half way line to Henley. With a twelve point lead and twenty minutes left to play this was Henley’s big chance to push forward. Strangely, the referee awarded a free kick to Canterbury at the scrum for an early push by the visitors. A quick tap saw Canterbury once again attacking and scoring wide out. With a seven point lead could Henley hold on? Unfortunately, this was the point at which Canterbury starved Henley of possession and with constant pressure in the Henley 22, eventually the defence succumbed and the hosts had drawn level.
This signalled a nervous last ten minutes and with Canterbury in control, a penalty was kicked into the corner. However Hyde rose high to secure the ball with one minute on the clock, however once again Henley were penalised for holding on. This time the penalty was again kicked into the corner and a powerful driving maul secured the win at the death for Canterbury and keep their home record intact.
The Henley players had given everything, indeed both sides were exhausted after a pulsating game of rugby. With four games left, it is essential Henley keep their foot firmly on the pedal as they still chase that elusive second spot. With two consecutive home games it would be great to see excellent home support to cheer the team forward.
Henley: O’Neill, Wood, Barnes, Andre, Robinson, Bolster, Webb, Stock, Emery, Manning, Hyde, Albon, Lunnon (capt), Hall, Bradley,
Reps: Primett, Cook, Lowe, Griffiths, McDougall, White.
Match photo courtesy of Phillipa Hilton