Henley Hawks 21–18 Bury St. Edmunds
Henley Hawks pulled off a miraculous victory from the jaws of defeat against a determined and well-drilled Bury St. Edmunds side on Saturday. Two late scores from wingers Reuben Norville and Jack Robinson guided Henley to an unlikely victory following Tom Emery’s red card after 60 minutes.
It was a cagey opening with both sides giving nothing away. A penalty off the upright from Bury’s Kodie Drury-Hawkins was the closest scoring opportunity for either side in the first twenty mintues. However, the visitors pressure soon told when a try from winger, Alfie Garside gave Bury a deserved 5-0 lead which was unconverted from the touchline by Drury-Hawkins.
This setback seemed to spur the Hawks into life. A turnover in midfield was pounced upon by Brad Cook which gave George Wood an opportunity to break free, and his offload to Alex Bradley saw the powerful Number 8 cross the line. Alex Burrage, in at fly-half in place of the injured Ben Bolster, converted to give the Hawks a narrow 7-5 lead on the half-hour mark. However, despite further pressure in the visitors 22 before half-time, it failed to yield a second score, as a combination of a forward pass and stout defending kept the gap to just two points at the break.
An early second half mistake gave Bury the opportunity to breach the Hawks line, however some last-ditch defending managed to repel the visitors attack. A clash of heads between second rows, Jake Albon and Dave Hyde saw both men leave the field, with Henley forced into making early changes in the pack. With two influential players back in the changing rooms, it gave Bury another opportunity to re-take the lead which they gladly took, as a pushover try in the corner by Tom Milosevic saw the visitors edge ahead 10-7. Drury-Hawkins again narrowly missing the touchline conversion. However, he soon made amends as Hawks ill-discipline gave him a relatively straightforward penalty opportunity to pull the visitors further clear, 13-7.
On the 60 minute-mark, with the Hawks looking to come back into the game, a moment of madness from Tom Emery earned him a red card from referee, George Richardson, and seemed to have all but finished the contest. With the home side in disarray, a second Garside try not long afterwards appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for the beleaguered home side, pulling them 18-7 ahead. Drury-Hawkins once again failing to add the extras.
However, heading into the final 10 minutes, Henley were forced into a more direct approach. Sam Lunnon, Will Bordill and Alex Bradley all made hard yards through the middle of the park, and the Hawks soon found themselves in the Bury 22. Slick passing saw Reuben Norville put the finishing touches on an excellent team try, which was again converted by Burrage.
With the scoreline now back in the balance at 18-14 to Bury, a galvanised Henley side, despite a man down and several players playing out of position, had the bit between their teeth. An excellent take from Lunnon at the re-start saw the Hawks on the attack again, which was helped by some ill-discipline from a tired-looking Bury side. A probing kick to touch by Burrage saw Henley back into the visitors 22. With Charlie Wicks now on at fly-half in place of Connor Morrison, and Burrage switching to his more familiar position of inside centre, the Hawks suddenly had a real spark in midfield and some wonderful passing gave Jack Robinson the space to dot down in the corner. Burrage again excellently converted to leave the score at 21-18 in favour of the Hawks.
With the visitors looking shell-shocked, it was Henley who again attacked in the final few minutes of injury-time. To their great credit, the Hawks expertly managed to run the clock down, and scrum-half, Ewan Fenley gleefully kicked the ball to touch to cap a Lazarus-like comeback for a delighted Henley side. Their never-say-die attitude was well-rewarded, but they will need to show improvements throughout for this Saturday’s visit to in-form Leicester Lions.
HENLEY: Wood, Norville, Andre (Griffiths 58), Morrison, Robinson, Burrage, Fenley, Cook (Mason 80), Emery (Wicks 58), Mason (Deacon 72), Albon (Lunnon 43), Hyde (Primett 43), Lowe, Bordill, Bradley
Replacements: Deacon, Primett, Lunnon, Wicks, Griffiths