THIS was a game that could have gone either way and with 10 minutes remaining it looked as if the Hawks might sneak it as they pounded the Students’ line last Saturday.
However, some exceptional defence and lack of control at vital moments by the visitors ensured that the spoils went to the home side.
The game started at a furious pace with Jaryd Robinson making a clean line break with his first touch of the ball but the attack faded and Loughborough cleared their lines.
After the first few forays from the Hawks the home side soon settled and their speedy fly-half cut through a lacklustre defence to score midway out. The conversion was missed as the wind began to play a significant part in the game.
The visitors were soon on the score sheet as Danny Wells kicked a penalty to close the score to 5-3.
Henley had plenty of the possession but a lack of accuracy and patience meant that opportunities went begging and the students capitalised on this by adding a further converted try and penalty to stretch their lead to 15-3, as crucial defensive errors began to creep into the Hawks’ game.
To add to their misery Robinson was stretchered off from the field with a fractured ankle after 30 minutes. This is the fourth serious leg injury to a Hawks player this season.
The injury seemed to spur Henley and a sweeping move across the right wing saw replacement Andre make valuable ground before passing on to the supporting O’Neill who scored wide out. Wells converted from the touch line into the teeth of the wind. At 13-10 it was game on as half-time approached.
Henley started the second half poorly as the kick-off was knocked on and continued pressure from Loughborough saw them kick a penalty in front of the posts.
The game deteriorated into a scrappy affair but Henley were still in with a chance as the students conceded numerous penalties. The visitors could not convert this pressure into points as numerous line-out opportunities were missed from close quarters.
One significant line break by Robbie Stapley nearly produced the vital score but the final pass went astray and the threat was cleared. A further injury to Neil Baggett meant the backs had to reshuffle once more with Tommy Haynes filling in on the wing.
The last 10 minutes of the game saw Henley trying desperately to secure the win but a resolute defence held tight and the relief on the home side supporters and players was clear as the final whistle brought a conclusion to a tight yet error-strewn game.
Henley Hawks: Baggett (Haynes, 65 mins), Robinson (Andre, 30 mins), Wells, Nutt, Allen, O’Neill, Carter, Dwyer, Long, Stapley, Woodward, McNally (Stapley, 75 mins), Penny (Steventon, 65 mins), Brennan (Allen, 65 mins), Maddocks.