Hawks’ Ten Try Victory Secures a Play-off Place

Henley Hawks 62 Dings Crusaders 17

Henley Tries – Carter, Stapley (2),Winterbottom, Briggs, Andre,Payne, Morris(2), Nutt,
Conversions – Robinson (3), O’Neill (3)
Dings Tries – Taylor, Cox, Dempsey Conversion – Woodrow


Henley Hawks earned the right to at least a play-off game for promotion to National Division 1 with this decisive victory over Dings who had secured a narrow victory, 25-22, over them in December. They overwhelmed a tiring Dings side, particularly in the second half, when they registered ten tries, or more, for the fifth time this season.


From the start the Hawks play was as bright as the sunny spring conditions at Dry Leas with the fast well presented ground made for their free flowing game. The largest crowd of the season were cheering the scoring of the first try after just three minutes although directly from the kick-off Dave Clements broke through and it seemed that Matt Payne was going to score within a minute of the start but the scoring pass went awry. The first try came when a handling movement was supported by full back Liam O’Neill which gave the opportunity for scrum-half Luke Carter to dance through the Dings defence to score his third try in the last three games and make the score 5-0.


At his juncture the Hawks attacking flair was on fire with some exhilarating swift handling promising to rock the Dings back on their hills. Further scores seemed likely to flow from these moves but finishing touches went astray. It was left, therefore, to the forwards to create the next score. They had the edge on Dings in the set scrums and made the most of this in front of the posts when they shunned the opportunity to kick a penalty goal but then drove the visitors pack back over  their line for No. 8 Robbie Staley to touch down to make the score 12-0 with Will Robinson’s conversion.


Despite some brilliant off-loading by the Hawks as a  team it was again that the forwards who  crossed the line after sustained pressure and it was James Winterbottom who made the score 17-0.  The Hawks dominance, however was up turned the first time that Dings ventured into their territory. This arose from a haphazard tap back from a line out on half way. The visitors in possession exploited this and swiftly moved the ball across their backs for left wing Steven Taylor to squeeze over in the far corner to make the score 17-5.


For the first time Dings secured possession to keep play in the Hawks half. However this was turned over in dramatic fashion by Robbie Stapley who  strode away from the Dings 25 metre line and proceeded to leave the visiting side dumb founded  showing commendable speed with no cover in sight until crossing the Dings line which with Robinson now on target with the conversion made the score 24-5 .


The Hawks regained their forward momentum indicated by Dave Clements making a typical surge up the middle of the park. Now in the Dings 25 area they were not in the mood to build a lead through penalty goals. Thus the ever alert Matt Payne took a tapped penalty and linked with Carter who found winger Briggs marauding on his shoulder to take a scoring pass for a try converted by Robinson.


It seemed that the Hawks would have a comfortable 31-12 lead with half-time a couple of minutes away. This complacency, however, was taken advantage of Dings who burst into attacking mode having got some decent possession for the first time in the game. The Hawks were then taken by surprise and suddenly looked vulnerable to the robust running of their bustling centres. In the space of two minutes either side of half-time they scored two tries by Sam Cox and Robert Dempsey which with one conversion by Mark Woodrow saw their score advance to 17 points.


The second half started with the Hawks still on the back with their lead reduced to 31-17. It seemed that Dings were going to strike again within minutes of the re-start when their excellent passing movement from right to left found Taylor on an overlap within five metres of the try line. To the relief of the Hawks he could not hold the scoring pass which floated into touch.


This was the high water mark of the visitors’ game from then until the end the Hawks were well in the ascendency. They got their score moving again with a classic winger’s try by Xavier Andre who collected an off load from Payne on the halfway line. He then put in an impressive burst of speed taking him past all cover except full back Woodrow. Accelerating towards him with a sway of the hips before swinging away to the right to leave this experienced player stranded.


The Hawks had now recovered to a comfortable 36-17 lead despite being a man short with Liam Dwyer in the sin bin. Tries followed at regular intervals with Dwyer returning to the game. Payne was on hand to finish some good running by Briggs. which made the score 43-17 with O’Neill taking over as kicker  from the replaced Robinson. It seemed that Alex Penny, who had replaced Stapley was going to score the most sensational try of the game when he collected a pass at pace and crashed through would be tacklers for 30 metres before he was stopped two metres from the line. It was hooker Nathan Morris who finished off a drive through a weakened Dings pack (both locks having been replaced) to score the first of, a brace of tries. The second was the last of the game when, by that time acting as a flanker.(!) he stole away from a set scrum near the posts for O’Neill to convert for the third time to make the score 62-17.


Before this skipper Martin Nutt scored a fine individualistic try taking an inside pass from the versatile Tom Allen, now operating at No. 10 in the absence of Robinson, near half-way, and then swerving through to score under the posts.


The Hawks travel to Shelford next Saturday where victory there would set-up a final game of the season against Worthing at Dry Leas on May 4 to decide which side will be automatically promoted to Division 1. The next two weeks will see the Hawks wanting all the support they can muster.



15. Liam O’Neill, 14. Xavier Andre, 13. Martin Nutt (capt.), 12. Tom Allen, 11. Richard Briggs (Will Woodward 76), 10. Will Robinson, (Neil Baggett 62), 9. Luke Carter, 1. Hugo Milford Scott (Dai Maddocks 44) 4. Dave Clements, 5. James Winterbottom, 6. Matt Payne,7. Lian Dwyer, 8. Robbie Stapley (Alex Penny 60)