Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Hawks secure bonus points in narrow defeat to leaders

A BUMPER crowd witnessed a pulsating local derby with Chinnor eventually claiming the bragging rights with a hard-fought victory over Henley Hawks at Dry Leas on Saturday.

The visitors kept their unbeaten record intact but were given a stern test by the Hawks who scored four tries in a gutsy and committed display which claimed two deserved bonus points.

Henley showed great intent from the start and immediately took the game to the league leaders by dominating possession with Matt Tibbatts and Tommy Haynes leading the charges.

Eventually Sam Portland found some space, having done well to stay in play after collecting his own kick, and some slick handling between him and Liam O’Neill got the ball to Jack Robinson, who crossed the line for the opening try which George Jackson converted.

Chinnor responded immediately with a quick and clinical attack which left Henley ruing a number of mistakes of their own making.

Having lost the first scrum on their own ball, the Hawks failed to win their first line-out and from the resulting attack, leaving the door open for Chinnor’s scrum half, Mike McDonald, to score a try.

The visitors kept up the pressure and took the lead with a simple try from George Oliver who broke a weak Henley tackle to score. This time Bertie Hopkin converted and the visitors led 12-7.

The game was fast and frantic with both sides showing total commitment. The Hawks played a possession game, keeping the ball in hand in all areas of the field whereas Chinnor were prepared to kick for position.

Henley enjoyed good periods of possession and eventually created a position from which to attack.

Tibbatts then led a strong driving maul and with Dave Hyde’s help, created enough space for the backs where Xavier Andre cut through the Chinnor defence to score and Jackson’s conversion put the Hawks back in front. But Chinnor immediately restored their lead with a similar try for wing Phil Chesters following some good passing involving ex-Hawk Connor Hayhow and Hopkin converted.

With half-time imminent, the game was finely balanced but the Hawks then gifted Chinnor a try with an interception to Will Bordill, the visitors back row forward.

The Hawks can consider themselves a little unlucky as most onlookers considered him to be standing in an offside position when he collected Henley’s loose pass but conversion by Hopkin gave the visitors’ a 26-14 lead at the break.

Chinnor extended their lead just after the restart when Henley tried to play out of their own 22. The move broke down and forward Ben Manning picked up the loose ball to scamper over from 25m. Hopkin added the conversion and with a lead of 33-14, the game looked out of reach for the Hawks.

However, the Hawks never gave up and Chinnor were not to score again in the game thanks in part to courageous performances from Dave Clements, Tibbatts and Dave Hyde for Henley.

Despite good possession, the Hawks found it difficult to break down Chinnor’s defence which was well organised and aggressive at the breakdown, winning a number of turnovers to stifle any attacking threat.

Eventually though, pressure told and a clearing Chinnor kick was charged down by Liam O’Neill, who collected the ball and ran 20m to score. The conversion from Jackson gave the Hawks some hope.

The last 10 minutes was littered with stoppages but the Hawks showed great character and got their just reward right at the end with a try under the posts from Tibbatts which Jackson converted to complete the scoring.

Henley Hawks: 15 Jack Robinson, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Simon Perry, 11 Sam Portland (Iwan MacRae, 80 minutes), 10 Joe Butler (Will Janes, 41 minutes), 9 George Jackson, 1 George Primett (Jim Hadfield, 80 minutes), 2 Juan Wunder (Matt Hodson, 53 minutes), 3 Joe Morris, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Jake Albon, 6 Dave Hyde, 7 Tommy Haynes (Scott White, 48 minutes), 8 Matt Tibbatts.

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