HENLEY BULLS ran out winners away to Shiplake Old Vikings in their annual fixture last Saturday.
Old Vikings battled hard and earned possession against a Bulls pack who were dominating possession although Old Vikings deserved their share of the territory with Sam and Elliot Quelch organising a response which made the Bulls work hard to avoid a breach of their defence.
Impressive running from the Bulls back three George Strang, Adi Gillespie and Si Perry ensured the visitors began to gain the upper hand. After 17 minutes Bulls captain James Bloxham was allowed some space to edge in on the right flank after the Bulls pack had worked some impressive phase play. Fly-half Guy Swadling opened an impressive 100 per cent kicking display with a conversion from the touchline.
The Bulls lost scrum half James Lambert to an ankle injury and replacement Sam Peris took the field earlier than planned but continued to drive his pack forward at every opportunity.
With the game swinging the way of the Bulls, Strang and Gillespie continued to threaten with evasive runs putting the Bulls in a position for the forwards to hammer over with lock Connor Stapley scoring the second try of the game.
Henley’s third try followed a clever angled run from Rory Lillington who impressed throughout from an unfamiliar position in the pack. A Lillington burst and off-load allowed centre Jordan Ethelston a face-off with the Vikings’ last defender who was dumfounded by Ethelston’s check and side step to score a third.
Bloxham added a fourth in the second half with an individual race to the line through a broken defence. The Vikings remained defiant and worked hard to respond but a well worked line out and driving maul organised by the experienced James Hadfield playing at blind-side flanker trundled over for a try.
The Vikings were finally rewarded for the determination with a late try engineered by their pack who chipped away at the Bulls’ tight defence until a gap opened close to the breakdown.
Henley Bulls: Steventon, Higgins, Weller, Lillington, C Stapley, Hadfield, Bloxham, Browning, Lambert (Peris, 21 mins, Middleton, 70 mins), Swadling, Perry, Lubbock, Ethelston, Gillespie, Strang.