Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Rossiter’s late tries help league leaders pull off Dry Leas ram-raid

Rossiter’s late tries help league leaders pull off Dry Leas ram-raid

VISITING side Rams held their nerve and came out on top in the Battle of the Thames at Dry Leas in a frenetic, physical match that was a great advert for National Division 2 rugby watched on by a crowd of nearly 1,200 supporters last Saturday.

In the end top-of-the-table Rams took home the spoils thanks to two late tries which sealed a 19-12 win. The Hawks were left heartbroken, having led 12-7 with just five minutes of the game remaining. However, Henley were good value for at least a draw, more than matching their local rivals who now look well set to be promoted to National 1.

The early exchanges were fierce and set the tone for the whole contest with both sides scrapping hard with no quarter given. Both Dan Barnes and Liam O’Neill were finding space in midfield and made good yards, but the Rams defence held firm. The Rams scrum was a problem for the Hawks all afternoon, yet despite this advantage, the visitors were unable to build on the solid platform created by their front row.

Despite the lack of activity on the scoreboard, the game was nonetheless enthralling as both sides cancelled each other out. It took until the 40th minute for the first score of the match, a fantastic break and offload from the excellent David Hyde saw him feed in Barnes to cross the whitewash in the corner giving the Hawks a narrow 5-0 half time lead with Roddy Giles’ conversion drifting narrowly wide.

The second half started in a similar vein. However, with the Rams opting for a scrum following a penalty in the Hawks 22 on 45 minutes, their dominance told and referee Nick Wood had no option but to award the penalty try.

With the Rams in the lead for the first time the Hawks soon had an opportunity to hit back but a Roddy Giles’ penalty agonisingly struck the upright. This setback didn’t derail the Hawks’ momentum and some direct running from both Hyde and Alex Bradley in particular proved difficult for the visitors to contain.

Another probing break, this time from George Griffiths, nearly saw Sam Randle over in the corner, but frustratingly for the home side he was penalised for holding on.

To the Hawks credit they refused to give up and with Niall Kid in the sin-bin for the Rams following a tip tackle on Bradley, the Hawks re-took the lead in the 67th minute when Dave Manning went over in the corner following more sustained pressure. A touchline conversion from Giles made it 12-7 with just over 10 minutes to go.

Exasperatingly for Henley, it proved to be short lived as the Rams scored two late tries from wing Jak Rossiter. The first of the late tries left the Hawks players, coaches and supporters scratching their heads as it appeared a knock-on in the tackle on Liam O’Neill was missed by both the referee and touch judges. A grateful Rossiter picked up the loose ball and dived over in the corner. Seers’ conversion drifted wide leaving the score at 12-12 with minutes to play.

With both sides giving each other opportunities at the death, Sam Randle failed to keep hold of the ball inside his own half, giving the Rams one last chance to sneak the win. The visitors were composed and went through multiple phases before Rossiter, with the man overlap, scored with the last play of the game. Seers’ conversion left the Hawks with just a losing bonus point for their efforts and the Rams with a vital victory in their push for promotion.

Henley Hawks: Randle, Wood, Griffiths (R O’Neill, 76 mins), Barnes, L O’Neill, Giles, Webb, Bradley, White (Hall, 40 mins), Lunnon, Hyde, Parkins (Lowe, 48 mins), Manning, Emery, Cook (Clarke, 58 mins). Replacements not used: Primett, Lowe.

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