Henley Hawks 12-19 Rams
The 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 2 rugby, and watched by a massive crowd of nearly 1,200 supporters. In the end, the Rams took home the spoils thanks to two late tries which sealed a 19-12 win. The Hawks were left heartbroken, having lead 12-7 with just 5 minutes of the game remaining. However, Henley were great 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, however a Roddy Giles’ penalty agonisingly struck in 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 Rams to contain. Another probing break, this time from George Griffiths nearly saw Sam Randle over in the corner, but frustratingly for the home side was penalised for holding on.
To the Hawks credit, they refused to give up and with Niall Kid in the sin-bin for the away side 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 wonderful 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 which left the Hawks players, coaches and supporters scratching their heads as a clear 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 it 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, scoring 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.
Next up for the Hawks is a trip to Kent to take on Tonbridge Juddians next Saturday 12 January 12. Kick-off is 2.30pm.
HENLEY: Randle, Wood, Griffiths (R O’Neill 76), Barnes, L O’Neill, Giles, Webb, Bradley, White (Hall 40), Lunnon, Hyde, Parkins (Lowe 48), Manning, Emery, Cook (Clarke 58)
Replacements: Primett, Clarke, Hall, Lowe, R O’Neill