Henley Hawks 23-10 Tonbridge Juddians
Henley Hawks moved up to fifth in National 2 East as they took the spoils against visiting Tonbridge Juddians at Dry Leas on Saturday in a hard-fought contest.
With both sides trying to make their mark on the league, it was the Hawks who were more efficient and had more creativity that saw them through for a deserved victory.
The Hawks needed to win this game and although they weren’t at their very best, they were far better than a disappointing Tonbridge side who offered little other than a stout defence.
The first half was an even affair with no quarter given and both sides looking to the forwards to gain superiority. The Kent side started brightly but it was the Hawks who took the lead after ten minutes with a penalty from Max Titchener with their first foray into their opponent’s half.
Will Crow, back after a lengthy lay off, looked sharp at scrum half with skipper Dave Manning Alex Bradley and Tom Vooght in the thick of the action. When the Hawks spread the ball wide, Seb Scott and Ryan Crowley looked threatening and centre Adam Porter made ground with some strong runs.
But it was the defences that cancelled each other out in the first half and both sides went close to scoring but didn’t have the necessary creativity to convert the pressure into points. Eventually, the visitors got themselves into a good position for Tom White to kick a penalty and level the scores. A pivotal moment in the game came just before the break when Tonbridge’s Toby Freeman received a yellow card for a no arms tackle, and this was to prove important for the Hawks. At the close of the half, the scoreboard had a ‘old style traditional game’ look to it with the teams level at 3-3.
The Hawks came out with renewed purpose for the second half and quickly took advantage of having the extra man. Henley’s wing forward Tom Hall had a good game coming off the bench, and it was his drive, along with some good handling from hooker Tom Emery that allowed Dave Manning to cross for the Henley’s first try.
Titchener landed a second penalty and although the Hawks weren’t as fluent as they would have liked, they were now in control. Although the visitors were now back to fifteen players, the Hawks went further ahead from an excellent 25m driving maul from the forwards which was finished by second row Ben Harrison. Titchener converted to give the Hawks an 18-3 lead.
The Hawks continued to try to play an open game and Adam Porter and Adam Hakimian in the centre continued to threaten. Anything Tonbridge put together was quickly dealt with by the Henley defence which was superb all afternoon.
Tonbridge were under pressure as they tried to get back into the game but a loose line out from the Kent side was picked up by Tom Vooght and after good handling from Hakimian and full back Ryan Crowley, Rory Mason crashed over for the Hawks third try.
The Hawks then went looking for the bonus point try and they almost claimed it when George Wood chased a clearing kick from inside his own half, he got the ball, fed Tom Hall who was in support and he drove went for the line. Tonbridge managed to scramble back and defend well and eventually won a penalty as the Hawks couldn’t breach the visitors line.
The last ten minutes were a bit scrappy and the Hawks gave away a few penalties which stifled their attempts to claim the bonus point. This allowed the visitors to play more of the game in the Hawks half but with the home side defending well, it looked unlikely that the visitors would add to their score.
However, Tonbridge claimed a consolation try with the last play of the game when hooker Joe Duffy pounced on a poor Hawks line out, on their own line. White converted.
The Hawks will be frustrated that they couldn’t score the fourth try that would have given them a valuable bonus point. However, it was a game they needed to win and they did just that which will give them good heart next week when they go to bottom club, Westcliff.
15 Ryan Crowley, 14 Leo Webb, 13 Adam Porter, 12 Adam Hakimian, 11 Seb Scott, 10 Max Titchener, 9 Will Crow 1 Dave Manning (c), 2 Tom Emery, 3 Luke Shpylka, 4 Ben Harrison, 5 Sam Lunnon, 6 Scott White, 7 Tom Vooght, 8 Alex Bradley
Reps: 16 Rory Mason (for Emery 62min), 17 Morgan MacRae (for Shpylka 32 min), 18 Tom Hall (for White 32 min), 19 Cail Cookland (for Crowley 73min), 20 George Wood (for Crow 62min)
Report by Nick Pitson and photos by Steve Karpa.