Henley Hawks 6 Blackheath 15
It was not to be for Henley Hawks on Saturday as Blackheath took the spoils in the top of the table clash at Dry Leas in an attritional, hard fought contest.
The conditions were excellent but for those who were expecting an open running game from two of the leagues top sides, they were disappointed. Apart from Blackheath’s two first half tries, both teams rather cancelled each other out with both packs of forwards going at each other for the whole game.
The Hawks deserved something from the game. The commitment and intensity from the whole side could not be faulted, but that said, Blackheath deserved their win. They were better with the ball in hand and when the Hawks threatened, which they did at times, the defence of the Londoners was excellent throughout.
Blackheath were well organised and started well, dominating possession and territory and grabbed an early try after seven minutes from No8 Tom Baldwin who finished off a good driving maul. Full back Tom Ffitch converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
The Hawks replied well, taking the game to their opponents, disrupting the visitors game and letting them know they were in for a real contest. Hawks pressure told and a Max Titchener penalty got the home side on the scoreboard.
Despite giving away some unnecessary penalties, the Hawks had their best spell of the game and showed the needed intensity to get a bit of momentum. A good drive from No8 Alex Bradley set up a good opportunity and they came close when a driving maul was illegally stopped by the visitors resulting in a yellow card for Archie Holland.
Hawks wing Rhyan Scott-Young had a couple of good runs, but despite their best efforts, the Hawks couldn’t find a way through the Blackheath defence and eventually, the Londoners extended their lead. They showed how clinical they were on only their second real foray into the Hawks 22 and some good handling from the forwards saw Jake Lloyd cross in the corner to give the visitors a 12-3 advantage.
The endeavour from both sides, whilst not graceful on the eye, could not be faulted. Henley’s Will Crow orchestrated things from scrum half and his perfectly judged kick pushed the Hawks deep into Blackheath territory. The forwards tried a number of drives at the Blackheath line and eventually the visitors collected their second yellow card in their effort to stop the Hawks attack. Max Tichener kicked the resulting penalty to reduce the deficit to 12-6 at the break.
The Hawks come out for the second half with good purpose and camped in the Blackheath 22 but for the second time in the game, couldn’t find the creativity to make the extra man count. The Hawks kept the pressure on the visitors and Alex Bradley and Tom Emery both went close. A Blackheath clearance kick was charged down by Sam Lunnon to add to the tension but further driving mauls were stopped both legally and illegally by the visiting forwards.
The game became more scrappy as the half went on and when Henley were caught offside in midfield, Tom Ffitch kicked a penalty for the visitors, the only score of the half.
The last quarter was well managed by the visitors. With their forwards now on top, they held onto possession and kept the tiring Hawks in their own half. Twice the excellent Hawks defence kept the visitors out but Henley couldn’t muster enough strength and quality possession to break out and Blackheath comfortably saw the time out and claimed the victory.
Blackheath came to Henley as league leaders and this game was a real arm wrestle. The Hawks fell just short and are now sixth but other results in the league this weekend mean they are still in touch with the teams at the top.
15 Ryan Crowley, 14 Reuben Norville, 13 Adam Hakimian, 12 Louis Flynn 11 Rhyan Scott-Young, 10 Max Titchener, 9 Will Crow
1 Dave Manning (c), 2 Tom Emery, 3 Rory Mason, 4 Marcus Lowe, 5 Sam Lunnon, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Tom Vooght, 8 Alex Bradley
Reps: 16 Luke Shpylka , 17 Morgan Macrae , 18 Scott White, 19 Ben Harrison, 20 James Davies
Report by Nick Pitson and Photo by Steve Karpa