Westcliff 15-26 Henley Hawks
Henley produced a workmanlike performance in overcoming a resilient Westcliff side who continued their gallant and fighting performance for eighty minutes. Westcliff have indeed produced some noteworthy performances at home this season and have been competitive in all their games, so Henley knew this was always going to be a tough assignment.
However, in atrocious conditions Henley opened up an impressive 19-0 lead inside 25 minutes to establish their superiority, a lead that they would never relinquish. Westcliff set the the early pressure but were unable to breach a resolute Henley defence. However, after some ten minutes a loose pass was countered by a quick thinking Henley side who moved the ball to Sam Lunnon who ran in unopposed under the posts for Ben Bolster to convert to establish an early 7-0 lead.
It wasn’t long before Henley had established territory deep in the home side’s 22, and from a good move off the lineout, Connor Morrison was able to burst through and feed Ewan Fenley to score once more close to the posts, Ben Bolster once again converted giving a healthy 14 -0 lead after 15 minutes.
Henley were now enjoying the largest share of territory and possession but with the elements in their favour, it was crucial to establish a big lead as the conditions could prove to be critical in the second half.
The visitors continued to push hard and produce some good attacking positions. This allowed Ben Bolster at fly half the room to exploit space across the field. This he orchestrated well, and after several phases of heavy pressure he spotted a gap in the defence to glide over for the Hawks third try which unfortunately he failed to convert.
With this score, the visitors really should have pushed on and secured the bonus point try inside the first half. However, errors started to creep into their game and they found themselves being penalised on a number of occasions for ruck and maul offences. This allowed Westcliff to relieve the pressure and create opportunities for themselves.
Unfortunately, after 30 minutes the Hawks lost their winger Murray Bellis to a nasty shoulder injury which will keep the winger out of action for a number of weeks.
Shortly before half time, Westcliff were able to score a try of their own as they exerted pressure on the Henley line. This was as a direct result of some poor defence from the visitors. On the stroke of half time they further reduced the arrears by kicking a penalty from in front of the posts. Henley’s lead of 19-8 was looking a little precarious as they knew they had to play against the considerable wind and rain in the second half.
Whilst Henley had the majority of possession in the second period, they were constantly pressurised by a relentless Westcliff defence, and handling errors were now starting to creep in. in addition, the Henley scrummage which had been dominant the previous week was creaking, and this lifted the home sides spirits. The inevitable breakthrough occurred when the buoyant home side’s centre intercepted a loose pass and ran strongly to score close to the posts, with the successful conversion taking the score to 19-15 in Henley’s favour. With 15 minutes remaining it was game on and Henley were facing a tough task.
However, the pressure was lifted when a blindside attack saw the leagues top try scorer, Sam Lunnon run in from 15 metres to secure the bonus point try, and give the visitors some breathing space. Ben Bolster converted well from wide out into a strong wind. Henley were then able to see out the rest of the game.
This was a tough assignment which Henley came through satisfactorily without reaching the heights of previous away games. This win now moves them up to second place in the league and the chance to build some momentum into some tough encounters in the future, starting with Clifton at home this Saturday.
Henley: Norvill, Bellis, Andre, Morrison, Wood, Bolster, Fenley, Cook, Emery, Mason, Hyde, Albon, Bordill, Lunnon, Lowe. Rep: Primett, Hughes, White, Burrage, Kharbouch.
By Nigel Dudding