HENLEY HAWKS were tested by a tenacious Canterbury side who took their try scoring opportunities to register five touch downs, the most the Hawks had conceded in a game this season and just two less than they had shipped before in eight matches.
This was not to outscore the Hawks who crossed for eight tries to maintain their 100 per cent league record.
The Hawks faced a side that were not daunted by conceding two tries in the first three minutes with one conversion by skipper James Comben.
The Hawks swept through a defence which was rushed off its feet by the incisive running of centres Ali James and Danny Wells which was supported by right wing Xavier Andre and fullback Martin Nutt, who at times during the game threatened to tear the visitors’ defence to shreds with their speed and guile.
That this did not continue throughout the game was due to the tackling of Canterbury who by the end of the game proved themselves to be one of the fittest sides that the Hawks had faced this campaign.
The visitors quickly showed their resilience when in almost their first visit to the Hawks 22 they conjured a try by flanker Tom Sherson which was converted by fly-half Tom Best.
As was to be a pattern in this game, any score by the visitors was soon responded to by the Hawks who were prepared to launch counterattacks, mainly through their half-backs Jack Shaylor and Comben, who repeatedly moved the ball from depth and it was Wells who found a gap to score after 23 minutes which with Comben’s conversion took the score to 19-7. However, they were exposed when they lost possession and Canterbury focused their attacks through accurate punting by fly-half Best which on occasions exposed the Hawks’ cover defence.
The speedy Richard Macintosh followed up a kick which escaped the grasp of Nutt to score wide out and with Best’s conversion the score was now 19-14. Such a challenge to their scoring supremacy this season led the Hawks to restore the balance of the match in their favour.
Nutt broke from his fullback position with some elusive running on a number of occasions during the game and when he did so down the left Xavier Andre was put clear by a well timed off-load by number eight Robbie Shapley to make the score 24-14.
The Hawks secured a bonus point before half-time but the final score in the first 40 minutes was the best. This was started by a catch off a Canterbury clearance kick by Shaylor who immediately started a passing movement across field to the left where James was put in possession 25 metres from the visitors’ line. He then set off with speed and swept across the line to make the score 29-14.
The Hawks were finding it difficult to command the scrums and their line-out possession was not as secure as in recent games. They started the second half stringing together 12 phases and this was eventually rewarded with a try by Wells thanks to good work by flanker Ryan Newman. Comben converted with his third and final successful kick of the afternoon.
At 36-19 it seemed set for the Hawks to pull away to a customary comfortable victory. This was not to be as the visitors immediately struck back with a try by number eight Willem Barrs. This was to be the story of the last quarter as Canterbury countered scores made by the Hawks
Soon after, Canterbury hooker Tom Rogers was sent to the sin bin for handling in a ruck as the Hawks drove for the line. Although the Hawks took immediate advantage with a controlled drive which enabled number eight Robbie Stapley to break away to score, it was Canterbury who registered the next two scores.
These resulted from accurate cross kicks by Best which were collected in the first instance by fullback Martyn Beaumont and then by centre David Devlin-Jones. The second of these was not converted by Best.
A cliffhanger did not materialise and this was completely eradicated when the Hawks, in the Canterbury 22, attacked through the dancing feet of David Briggs who touched down in the right hand corner.
Henley Hawks: 15 Martin Nutt, 14 Andre Xavier, 13 Ali James (Neil Baggett, 64 mins), 12 Danny Wells, 11 Richard Briggs, 10 James Comben, 9 Jack Shaylor, 1 Hugo Milford Scott, 2 Liam Dwyer, 3 James Hadfield (Alex Penny, 44 mins), 4 James Winterbottom (Andrew Cannock, 61 mins), 5 Josh McNally (Dave Clements, 40 mins), 6 Will Woodward, 7 Ryan Newman, 8 Robbie Stapley.