Westcliff 24-38 Henley Hawks
Henley travelled to Essex on Saturday and came up against a committed and uncompromising side that really didn’t reflect their lowly status. This said, Henley were unable to gain any sort of purposeful momentum during the game and hence, the stop-start nature led to an error-strewn performance.
However, the visitors gained a full five-point win which projected them to third place in the league with some tough encounters over the coming weeks.
Henley enjoyed the majority of the early possession and were ahead after only three minutes. A powerful scrum saw No8 Alex Bradley touch down close to the posts for Max Titchener to add the conversion points – a perfect start for the visitors. This should have been the signal for the visitors to push forward and secure a decent lead moving forward. Unfortunately, a mistake from the kick-off allowed the home side to kick deep into the Henley half, where a defensive error saw an easy opportunity for Westcliff to draw level.
This was really the story of the game. Henley were gaining good possession with promising attacks but a lack of basic skills at times and unforced errors saw the home side able to recover on each occasion that Henley threatened.
Ben Harrison was next on the team sheet after a series of punishing drives towards the visitors’ line saw the second row drive over for Max Titchener to convert to restore the lead. A Henley kick through was then charged down by Westcliff and once again the home side had levelled the score without having to really work hard.
Henley were back on the offensive not long after and a second try from Harrison was scored wideout after some good support play; this time Max Titchener was just wide with the conversion. Back came Westcliff to level once again as a clever kick outstripped the Henley defence.
Perhaps the decisive moment came just before half time, after a series of punishing drives from the Henley forwards saw skipper Dave Manning crash over to set up a halftime score of 26-19.
Westcliff were first out of the blocks in the second half with a try wide out to reduce the deficit to just two points again. With both sides now having gained a bonus point it all was to play for.
This was a good as it got for the hosts as Henley rounded off an injury and error strewn second half with further tries from Tom Vooght and Sam Lunnon, one of which was converted by Max Titchener to make the final score line comfortable.
Henley’s objective was clearly a five-point win which, in the end, was comfortably achieved, but with some crucial games coming up in the next few weeks, accuracy will be at a premium.
Henley: Crowley, Scott, Davies, Porter, Webb, Titchener, Crow, Manning (capt), Emery, Mason, Lunnon, Harrison, Vooght, Scott, Bradley, Subs: Wood, Macrae, Shpylka, Hall, Lowe.
Report by Nigel Dudding.