Saturday, 31 October 2020

Vikings maintain unbeaten record

HENLEY VIKINGS maintained their 100 per cent record this year as they triumphed 36-26 at Princes Risborough last Saturday.

It had looked during the week as though the game would have to be conceded because of the number of injured and unavailable front row throughout the club, but in the end, the only genuine front row John Clarke was joined by Charlie Esse, Tony Attfield and the incomparable Mark Venner to allow the game to go ahead.

Fears of problems in the tight were unfounded as the Vikings immediately pushed their opponents off the first scrum. This was due to an early lack of concentration from Risborough, because the next scrum saw the opposite result and set the pattern for the hosts to dominate this phase of the game. Without this dominance, the Vikings would almost certainly have dominated by a wide margin.

Playing into a strong wind in the early stages the Vikings were two scores ahead within 15 minutes. Concerted early pressure in the opponents’ 22 saw Luke Rosier burst through close to the posts for a converted score. Soon after several phases in their own half, Toby Stevens broke clear and put flanker Duncan Zacks through for the second try of the day.

The hosts now started to use the wind effectively and the Vikings were shoved back at a scrummage which led to the first try for the visitors.

Venner was introduced to the fray in the front row and he was involved in generating a turnover in the Vikings’ own half, and skipper Craig Johnston burst through the Risborough defence and stormed in from 50 metres.

A swift response from Risborough very much in the manner of their first score saw them reduce the deficit to 17-12, but there was time for the Vikings to hit straight back from the restart with strong driving play which eventually allowed Toby Stevens to force himself over, and half-time arrived with the score 22-12 in Henley’s favour.

The prospect of playing with the strong wind meant that the Vikings were confident of pulling clear in the second half, but some errant kicks and stubborn Risborough defence meant that the first 10 minutes were scoreless, until the Vikings managed to control enough phases in the opposition half for scrum-half Micky Molloy to force himself over.

In the build-up to the try hooker Charlie Ess sustained a shoulder injury which saw him leave the field. This meant uncontested scrums and the Vikings were reduced to 14 men under the league rules.

Risborough soon took advantage of the extra man in the forwards, and scored a driving try which they managed to convert to reduce the arrears to 29-19.

The Vikings were not about to let the game slip away and a tap penalty was moved swiftly to Zacks, who used his pace and footwork to score his second try of the afternoon.

The final act of the game saw Risborough score their best try from over 50 yards, a solo run by their flanker.

There were also three seasonal debutants on the field for the Vikings in the shape of cousins Lewes and Lucas Collins, and Guy Wilson.

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