Below Par Hawks Edged Out in Norfolk
North Walsham 29 Henley Hawks 23
Henley returned empty handed from Norfolk as they produced a lack lustre performance against a side who had struggled to find form this season. In fact, North Walsham belied their lowly position as they took the game to the visitors with intensity and straight running. Henley were guilty of making too many unforced errors whilst buoyed by a large home support North Walsham were able to dominate large parts of the first half.
Despite this Henley were first on the scoreboard as Ewan Fenley once again broke the defence to score under the posts after 10 minutes with Max Titchener adding the extras. This should have settled the Henley nerves but back came the hosts and pressurised the visitors line with a series of driving mauls and close straight running. However, Henley were to survive this onslaught and added further scores from a Max Titchener penalty and a further try from Alex Bradley to take them to 15 points to the good.
Henley were unable to gather the kick off and once again North Walsham were camped inside the Henley half and were rewarded by a try of their own as the Henley side ran out of numbers and Adam Hankimian received a yellow card for a team offence after several phases of advantage.
With the score at 15- 7 in the visitors favour there was no need to worry as a rare Henley attack once more produced a penalty from the reliable boot of Titchener. With a few minutes left to half time however the hosts came back strongly and scored a converted try to reduce the arrears to 4 points at the break.
Henley now had the luxury of a stiff breeze at their backs and needed to up their game and take control of the ball. Unfortunately, their lineout was beginning to falter and the hosts could sense frustration creeping into the Henley game. This coupled with a series of handling errors from Henley allowed the hosts to relieve pressure somewhat.
After some 15 minutes of the second half came a decisive moment when North Walsham were able to take the lead for the first time as some ineffective defence allowed them to cross wide out and the ever-reliable boot of their fly half extended their lead to three points.
Henley now had their best period of the second half as a series of quickly recycled phases allowed Max Titchener to score out wide unopposed, unfortunately his conversion kick rebounded off the upright. With a four-point lead Henley needed to push home their advantage but once again error strewn handling and too much kicking out of hand gave the initiative back to the home side and they took full advantage with a converted try with ten minutes remaining. They further extended their lead with a penalty deep in injury time for a well-deserved victory.
From the highs of the previous weeks performance this was a huge reality check for Henley who looked uncharacteristically lethargic and inaccurate.
Henley: Crowley, Webb, Porter, Hankimian, Norville, Titchener, Fenley, Manning (capt) Macrae, Mason, Lunnon, Harrison, Vooght, Scott, Bradley. Subs Sichel, Shpylka, Hall, Wood, Cookland.