THE Henley Vultures ensured that the Dry Leas trophy cabinet will not be completely bare
THE Henley Vultures ensured that the Dry Leas trophy cabinet will not be completely bare when the new clubhouse opens next season by lifting the Oxfordshire Vets Cup by beating Grove Vets at Dry Leas on Wednesday of last week.
The ultimately comfortable victory margin did not reflect the full story of the match, as Grove were competitive for the majority of the first half.
The visitors were first on the scoreboard after the Vultures failed to deal with a long clearance kick effectively and a kind bounce of the ball allowed Grove to storm over for what was effectively a length of the field converted try.
The Vultures asserted forward dominance and after a driving maul from a line-out in the Grove 22, Steve Barnes was eventually driven over for a try. Unfortunately the conversion was missed by fly half Andy Noyce.
The course of the game now pivoted around two crucial events. Henley prop Jim Hadfield was shown a yellow card for illegal use of the shoulder, but during his 10 minutes’ absence, the Vultures were able to hold firm and did not allow Grove to seriously threaten their line.
Shortly after Hadfield’s return it was Grove’s turn to lose their large lock forward for persistent offside by the whole pack. In the few minutes that remained before half-time, Henley were able to score two tries, the first by skipper Mark Venner after a Matt Payne break from a scrum, and then pretty much straight from the re-start, right wing Simon Priestley scored a try from half way, cutting in from his wing and beating six defenders.
A close encounter had turned into a 17-7 half-time lead for Henley and in the second half the Vultures pressurised Grove for 10 minutes before their defence finally cracked and Simon Priestley again cut across the face of half the Grove team from the touchline to score near the posts.
With the score at 24-7 and with a flock of nine Vultures eager to get into action, the Henley management started to ring the changes.
Chris Darke added a penalty to stretch the gap to 20 points and then scored himself after a fine initial break from Adam Cotton and support from several colleagues.
The final score for the Vultures came after another Cotton break out from the kick-off, a surging run down the left wing from Jonny Carson and the try was finished off by Phil Stott who picked up a difficult pass with great aplomb having been on the field for less than two minutes.
The Vultures then relaxed and Grove were able to score a consolation try just on the final whistle.
The Oxfordshire Vets Shield final was played before the main game, and this saw Wheatley defeat Abingdon 18-12.