IN A stunning late comeback, Henley College secured victory over AASE league leaders Ivybridge with the very last play of the game last Wednesday.
In doing so they gave themselves an outside chance of making the play-offs when the league recommences in the New Year.
The recent heavy rain meant that the venue was switched from Dry Leas to Maidenhead RFC’s 4G pitch to ensure the game could go ahead. The artificial surface ensured that conditions underfoot were ‘standard’ but the elements still had a significant bearing on the game as a strong wind blew straight down the pitch.
Having elected to play with the wind in the first half it was important that Henley registered some early points. However, they got off to a hesitant start and it was Ivybridge who looked the more confident side in the early exchanges. Refusing to kick the ball into the wind the visitors looked increasingly likely to score the first points.
However, a period of Henley pressure midway through the half was eventually rewarded as Jake Elias ran through his opposite number to score under the posts.
This gave Henley some confidence and they started to pound away at Ivybridge’s line with Patrick Culligan and Alex Harrison just denied during a period of sustained pressure.
Ivybridge eventually cleared their lines and kicked a straightforward penalty to reduce the score to 7-3.
Immediately after the break a couple of aimless clearing kicks allowed Ivybridge easy access to Henley’s 22 and they made no mistake with their finishing as their fly half showed neat footwork to score under the posts.
Henley’s forwards started to make ground around the fringes with some dynamic driving play with Ian Brown and George Hayes to the fore.
Having sucked in the defence the backs found further metres either through midfield or out wide and their ability to retain the ball and get over the gainline gave the home side confidence. This had the added effect of starving Ivybridge of possession and as a result they were finding it increasingly difficult to get any worthwhile field position.
Leading 10-7 midway through the half and with the wind showing no sign of abating, Ivybridge still looked far more likely to secure the win, but the momentum changed when a high tackle saw their England U18 second row despatched to the sin bin.
During this 10-minute period clean line breaks by Connor Morrison and Harry McCartney gave Henley further belief that they could register another score. In contrast Ivybridge started to take some pot-shots at goal, with a long-range penalty and drop goal both wide of the mark.
In the last 10 minutes, Henley introduced fresh legs in the shape of forward substitutes Jackson Burton and Shek Sherrif and both players made immediate impacts with powerful surges that took play deep into Ivybridge territory.
With the clock ticking down Henley’s forwards hammered away at the Ivybridge line and after Sherrif was stopped inches short they eventually released the ball to the backs allowing Elias to send Dan Barnes over in the corner for the winning score.