HENLEY HAWKS got back to winning ways last Saturday as they ran out winners in a their clash with Chinnor at Dry Leas.
The first half was a tense affair with neither side able to break down their opponents’ defence with few tackles missed.
The second half produced exciting running rugby by Henley who finished the game with five tries in all — four in the second half, three of which came in the last quarter of the game — which secured them a try bonus point for the tenth time this season.
The Hawks started the match with good running which featured Xavier Andre producing a 45 metre burst and scrum-half Jack Shaylor. However this did not produce any tries largely due to Chinnor tackling relentlessly while the Hawks finishing was restricted by less than accurate passing.
The Hawks were also subject to referee Caton’s whistle as they failed to move away from tackles. Chinnor were able to keep the Hawks at bay through the boot of fly-half James Cathcart who cleared the posts with two huge penalties. the first of which equalled an early opening kick by Hawks’ James Comben which had put his side ahead, just three minutes
The stalemate between the two sides, who countered each other in forward and back play, was broken by the issue of a yellow card.
With half-time beckoning Chinnor were reduced to 14 players when prop Andy Berry was sin binned with a yellow card following an assault on a Hawks player.
With a man advantage the Hawks sent the resultant penalty to touch and then drove hard for the Chinnor line, but having failed to cross it controlled the ball well and scrum-half Shaylor spotted the wide open blind side to score and put his side 8-6 up at the interval.
The Hawks started the second half brightly and developed a handling movement which was finished off by Richard Briggs — who replaced the injured Martin Nutt 14 minutes into the game — who came off his opposite wing to beat the Chinnor cover. A third penalty by Cathcart kept Chinnor in touch making the score 13-9 after 47 minutes.
A swerving run from right wing Briggs heralded a change in the tempo of the game. The Hawks were now moving confidently on to the ball, surging forward with Danny Wells running hard as he split the Chinnor defence, which was now beginning to find it hard to keep the Hawks at bay. His first try of two gave the Hawks their first comfortable lead at 18-9.
The hosts kept the pace up after Shaylor was replaced by new signing Luke Carter and Wells was able burst through for his second. Comben was able to convert and as the game came to a close wilted once more when a fine handling move ended with Comben sidestepping the last shreds of defence to make the score 32-9.
From the Hawks viewpoint it was not only the collection of a 10th try bonus point which gave them satisfaction but also the return to the high standard of defensive play which had deteriorated in their previous two games when they conceded 11 tries.
This was especially true when the Chinnor forwards were parked on or about the Hawks’ 10 metres line for five minutes and when they were held up over the line. It was then the Hawks showed the resilience that they lacked against Worthing the previous week no doubt helped by the return, after two weeks’ absence, of their talisman Matt Payne.
Henley Hawks: 15 Tom Allen, 14 Martin Nutt (Richard Briggs, 11 mins), 13 Ali James, 12 Danny Wells, 11 Xavier Andre, 10 James Comben, 9 Jaxk Shaylor (Luke Carter, 65 mins), 1 Dai Maddocks (Alex Penny, 77 mins), 2 Liam Dwyer, 3 James Hadfield, (Hugo Milford Scott, 52 mins) 4 Dave Clements, 5 James Winterbottom, 6 Matt Payne, 7 Ryan Newman, 8 Robbie Stapley. Replacements: 16 Hugo Milford Scott, 17 Alex Penny, 8 Will Woodward, 19 Richard Briggs 20 Luke Carter.