Hawks Lose in Opener in Close Fought Game

Henley Hawks 19 Bury St Edmunds 24

It was a disappointing start for their National 2 (E) campaign for Henley Hawks on Saturday as they went down 24-19 to a competent Bury St Edmunds side in a close fought game at Dry Leas.

It was always going to be a difficult start for the Hawks as the Suffolk side finished above Henley last season and so it proved. The Hawks struggled for continuity in their play and direction at times whereas the Suffolk side defended stoutly and had more direction when they had possession of the ball.

Having said that, the Hawks will look back on a game they should have won as they had more than enough possession and created a number of good opportunities backed up with the expected excellent commitment and effort.

The visitors started brightly and were on the scoreboard after just four minutes, with Michael Stanway crossing after some good pressure from the Bury forwards. Full back Charlie Reed converted.

This sparked Henley into life and they then had a good spell with Ben Harrison, Sam Lunnon and Alex Bradley taking the game to the visitors. The Hawks were soon level, showing some exciting rugby that they are striving for consistently. Some good handling from Reuben Norville, Adam Porter and Adam Hankimian saw Hankimian chip through for scrum half Ewan Fenley who won the race to touchdown under the posts. New outside half Max Titchener converted.

The Hawks then played most of the rest of the fist half in Bury territory and came to scoring on a number of occasions. The Hawks scrum seemed under a bit of pressure and a couple of driving mauls, usually such an effective weapon for the Hawks, didn’t deliver a score as the visitors defence held firm.

Eventually, as pressure told from the Henley forwards, measured cross kick from Titchener was gathered by wing Seb Scott and he crossed for a try in the corner to give the Hawks a deserved lead.

With Henley sorting out their scrum issues the rest of the half saw more open play with both sides trying to move the ball wide. There was some excellent defence from the Hawks ensuring they took a 12-7 into the break.

The visitors retook the lead straight after the break with a try under the posts from hooker Finlay McCartney which Reed converted.

To the Hawks credit, they replied immediately. Sam Lunnon and ex Rams Tom Vooght were excellent in the loose play and as the ball was move wide, centre Adam Porter capped a good debut by gliding through a gap in the Bury defence and running 40m to score. Titchener converted to give the Hawks a 19-14 lead.

The Hawks had sorted out their scrum problems by this stage and they almost extended their lead straight afterwards when some exquisite handling from Lunnon saw Fenley held just short of the line.

The are no easy games in league rugby and with the Hawks looking to seal the game, the visitors, who had more clarity and direction in their play, rallied, and started to put the home side under pressure. Unforced errors started to creep into the Hawks game and the penalty count started to go against them and a penalty from Reed then reduced the arrears to 19-17.

The visitors capitalised on the Hawks errors and a Henley kick went into touch on the full, it gave the Suffolk side an attacking position and outside half Kodie Drury-Hawkins found some space to score after good drives from his forwards. It proved to be the winning score. Reed converted for 24-17 lead.

The Hawks kept going and went close on a number of occasions with wings Reuben Norville and Seb Scott looking dangerous. Norville made an excellent break and with Fenley kicking through, it looked like Norville had won the race to the touchdown only for a ‘knock on’ to be given, right on the line.

The Hawks couldn’t find a winning score and when it mattered, the Bury forwards had the knowhow to keep the ball and see the game to the end.

This was a frustrating afternoon for the Hawks and their supporters with a game they could have won. They came up against good opposition but will be looking to improve at Old Albanian next week.

Report by Nick Pitson and Photo by Steve Karpa