Winning start halted in South West

Taunton Titans 25-17 Henley Hawks

A lacklustre first half performance ultimately cost Henley the victory they so craved. In recent seasons the game at Taunton had been fruitful for the Hawks winning in the last two fixtures at the Towergate Stadium. However, this time around it was clear that Taunton were in no mood to play second fiddle.

From the start of the game the Titans dominated the possession and certainly the breakdown. Henley were a shadow of their previous few weeks performance. The home side were running hard lines and busting the Henley defensive line on numerous occasions. Whenever Henley had the ball they seemed to be always on the back foot and searching for answers to the hope sides attack and desire to win the collision areas.

Henley appeared lethargic and uncharacteristically slow to respond to the attacking threat. In addition, they were giving away numerous penalties which the home side were able to capitalise on. From one such penalty kicked to the corner a well-executed catch and drive set up a try which was converted to give the home side the lead after 10 minutes.

Henley at this point were having difficulty clearing their lines and were under constant pressure. In the end some last ditch tackling was relieving some potentially scoring situations. When they kept the ball for phases Henley started to settle into the game and some positive driving play from Cook, Bradley, Emery and Hall relieved some of the pressure. It was not long however before the home side worked another good attacking platform to score wide out. That was followed by a long range penalty gave the home side a 15-0 advantage at the break. In essence this was not an unassailable target given that Henley were now playing with the elements. Indeed, this proved to be the case as Henley replied with 17 unanswered points of their own to take a 17-15 lead with 12 minutes remaining.

The first score came from a kick to the corner followed by a perfectly executed catch and drive which saw hooker Emery being driven over. This definitely lifted the Henley spirits as ten minutes later a carbon copy catch and drive saw Lunnon break away to score close to the post for Bolster to convert. With the score at 15 -12 in Henley’s favour, it was game on. Indeed, with 10 minutes to go the ball was moved wide to the left where debutant, Reuben Norvill was waiting and with no hesitation he beat three defenders to score wide out, unfortunately Bolster was unable to convert the score.

At this stage Henley should really have sealed the game but a poor clearance ensured Taunton had another attacking opportunity to hammer close to the line. The inevitable try followed after a series of pick and drives and the conversion was a formality.

With a five point deficit there was still time for Henley to push for the bonus point try but a forward pass denied them, and a late penalty from Taunton also took away the bonus point.

All in all a tremendous second half performance which showed the ability and determination of this Henley team. Unfortunately the first half performance was the difference between the sides and focus now turns to the next couple of weeks with both games against Worthing and Redruth at home.

Some encouraging news was the return of Rory Mason into the front row after a season out with injury and a first game for Will Bordill after concussion received in pre-season.

Team: O Neill, Robinson, Andre, Burrage, Wood, Bolster, Fenley, Cook, Emery, Hughes, Hinton, Albon, Hall, Lunnon, Bradley

Reps: Norvill, White, Bordill, Primett, Mason

Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa;