HENLEY HAWKS’ promotion ambitions were sorely tested on Saturday when they succumbed to a Dings Crusaders side with a never say die attitude.
To make matters worse Jack Shaylor picked up a knee ligament injury which is likely to see him miss the rest of the season.
In damp conditions the heavy pitch at Dings is always a test for any side. The visitors must have thought that they had weathered the early storm and with two minutes to go until half time they had scored three well worked tries with good driving play through their forwards from James Winterbottom, Rob Stapley and Will Woodward.
These tries came as a result of constant pressure on the Dings line. Two of these tries were converted by James Comben.
However, the home side were always in the game as a catalogue of handling errors allowed Dings to either relieve the pressure or create opportunities of their own. From one such error close to the Henley line the effective scrimmage caught Henley cold and their number eight was driven over.
Henley were pressing for that fourth elusive try when disaster struck as an attack broke down and the Dings second row intercepted a loose pass, and with all the Henley backs committed to attack, he galloped 40 metres to score under the posts. The try was converted and it was game on as Henley led by just two points at the break.
Henley had the better of both possession and territory but continued handling errors were abundant and these were punished by a Dings side clearly buoyed by the situation they found themselves in.
An early error allowed Woodrow to kick the home side in front after only two minutes and Henley were finding it difficult to play their way out of deep positions.
Dings drove hard for the line and scored wide out and for the reliable boot of Woodrow to add the extras.
Henley responded by placing Dings under intense pressure so much so that a further yellow card was issued but time after time Henley drove and in the diminishing light it became difficult for the referee to see exactly what was happening.
One of the penalties was converted to reduce the lead to three points but Dings held out for a memorable win which led to a frustrated Henley side with only a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.
The defeat, the Hawks third in five games, saw them slip from top spot to fourth place in the table.
Henley Hawks: Baggett, Briggs, Allen, Wells, Andre, Comben, Carter (Shaylor, 60 mins; O Neill, 70 mins) Milford Scott (Hadfield, 55 mins), Dwyer, Manning, McNalley, Winterbottom, Woodward, Stapley, Clements.