HENLEY HAWKS made it back-to-back wins last Saturday as they picked up their first National Division 1 away success of the season at Worthing Raiders, writes Nigel Dudding.
The match between the two sides that were both promoted from National Division 2 South last season turned into a pulsating and dramatic affair as Henley secured a bonus point victory.
With just 10 minutes remaining on the clock it seemed as if the visitors were going to take the spoils easily as at this point they led the home side 32-8.
However, the home side, as in previous years, finished strongly and nearly turned the tables in spectacular fashion with three tries inside six minutes. Henley’s resilience shone through and they held out for a dramatic win.
The visitors started much the stronger with Henley’s set piece being accurate as they pressurised the Worthing scrum on nearly every occasion. The line-outs were secure as Henley welcomed back Josh McNally after a three-week lay off. The second row handed off his opposite number as he ran in from 20 metres for a try after 26 minutes.
This followed a try by Christoph Bart, also making a return in Henley colours, after just seven minutes of play.
The forwards were winning quality ball in all phases and this allowed time and space for the visitors to show good handling and support play skills with forwards and backs linking well in wave after wave of attacks.
A Comben penalty on 38 minutes signalled the start of his individual tally of 22 points and enabled him to gain the man-of-the-match award from the local sponsors.
In some ways the game was decided in the 10-minute period before half-time as Henley put up their best defensive display of the season so far.
All Worthing gained from this was a penalty from Govett as the visitors’ line remained intact.
With a 15-3 interval lead it was clear that Henley still had work to do and their cause was not helped as Worthing Raiders scored six minutes into the half as Henley had the ball turned over and the home side hooker Miles was on hand to score mid-way out to make the score 15-8.
Henley were quick into their stride again and forced a penalty from a scrum for Comben to convert.
The game swung decisively in Henley’s favour as Comben again picked off two defenders and with some deft footwork scored a try from the edge of the 22. He again converted his effort to stretch the lead once more.
With 10 minutes remaining a kick ahead from the Henley fly-half saw the ball bounce into the visitors’ goal area where the Worthing fullback took an age to secure the ball. Meanwhile Comben had dived in speculatively at the fullback’s feet to claim an unlikely score.
There was a tense moment as the officials consulted and then agreed a try had been scored. Once again Comben kicked the conversion.
The remainder of the game saw one of the most dramatic of comebacks as the home side threw everything they could at Henley displaying good support skills and determined running.
Henley, whose defence had been good until now, seemed to fade with this onslaught but they eventually held on to secure victory.
Henley Hawks: Nutt, O’Neill, Bart, Wells (Baggett, 30 mins) Allen, Carter, Comben, Maddocks (Hadfield, 70 mins) Brennan, Penny (Steventon, 70 mins), McNally, Woodward, Newman (Ashmore, 65 mins), Stapley, Dwyer. Sub not used: Connor Stapley.