HENLEY HAWKS 30 LEICESTER LIONS 36
Henley Hawks four game winning run came to end at Dry Leas on Saturday and with it, a slight setback to their promotion aspirations as they came up against a well organised and confident Leicester Lions side.
Beforehand, the improving Midlands club had won their last five matches and so it always looked as though this would be a tough game for the Hawks.
A game played between two good sides, it was the visitors who produced a clinical performance and gained a deserved bonus point victory, although the Hawks came back towards the end and claimed two points for themselves.
The game was played in driving rain for most of the match and it was the Lions who managed the conditions much better than the home side, particularly in the first half.
Despite a couple of early surging runs from Marcus Lowe, who was celebrating his 100th appearance in a Hawks shirt, it was the visitors who took the lead after just five minutes through prop Isaac Thompson after the Leicester backs had pierced the Hawks defence. Ben Young converted the try.
Despite the wet conditions, both sides looked to move the ball and the exchanges were fairly even as Cail Cookland kicked two penalties for the Hawks and Ben Young one for Leicester.
The Lions looked composed and effective in the wet conditions and kept the Hawks in their own half. They kicked well for position, counter attacked quickly and their forward drives included a lot of short passes, negating the slippery conditions. They extended their lead when full back Wilcockson retrieved a loose Hawks kick, broke through, chipped ahead and gathered the ball before feeding Godefroy to score under the posts. Young again converted to give the visitors a 17-6 lead.
The Hawks kept battling and eventually managed to test the visitors defence. A real positive for the Hawks was the set scrums which gave them some momentum and eventually they worked their way into the Leicester 22 to threaten the Leicester line.
After some good drives from the forwards, a chip though from Matt Dalrymple saw Reuben Norville win the race to the touchdown under the posts for his ninth try of the season. Cookland converted.
All the good work from the Hawks to get back in the game then went to waste just before the break when Leicester collected a missed touch kick and made their way upfield into Hawks territory. The Lions No8 Nick Cairns drove forward well and allowed centre Tom Young to score another converted try to give the Lions a 24-13 lead at the break.
The Hawks came out for the second half with good intent but despite some good drives from Alex Bradley and Sam Lunnon, at times they lacked composure in attack and went further behind to a try from Lions wing Jake Sterland which was converted by Young.
The last quarter of the game was the best Period for the Hawks and although they received a yellow card for centre George Amphlett, they responded well with a try from Alex Bradley who picked up and drove over from a dominant Henley scrum which gave the home side more confidence.
Henley were enjoying a lot more possession at this stage but any thought of a home revival were quickly scuppered when a mix up in the Hawks defence allowed Lions wing Sterland to grab his second try of the afternoon.
To their credit, Henley never gave up and the last ten minutes belonged to the Hawks where they really showed their character, as they kept the Lions defence honest. They were eventually rewarded with a try from Cail Cookland, which he himself converted to reduce the deficit to 36-23.
With another converted try needed to earn two vital bonus points, another Henley attack finished with No 8 Alex Bradley crashing over for his second try with the last play of the game. Cookland converted to complete the match, and although beaten by the better side on the day, the two points gained has helped limit the dent to the Hawks challenge at the top of the league.
Report by Nick Pitson and photo by Steve Karpa
15 Cail Cookland, 14 Will Crow, 13 Reuben Norville, 12, George Amphlett, 11 Rhyan Scott-Young,
10 Matt Dalrymple, 9 Toby Gilbey,
8 Alex Bradley, 7 Marcus Lowe, 6 Sam Lunnon, 21 Ben Harrison, 4 Jake Albon (Capt), 3 Rory Mason, 2 Tom Emery, 1 Brad Cook
Reps: 16 Charlie Hughes (for Cook 65 mins), 17 Ollie Frostick (for Mason 66mins), 18 Tom Hall (for Lowe 48mins), 19 Scott White (for Scott-Young 66mins), 20 Matt Mann (for Gilbey 40mins)