Sevenoaks 28-24 Henley Hawks
Henley succumbed to a very committed and lively Sevenoaks team who were determined to play an uncompromising game and deny Henley any time or space and as a consequence the visitors found it difficult to settle into any pattern or gain meaningful possession.
The game was, however, in the balance to the final whistle as the visitors tried to rescue a bonus point win which had looked unlikely after half an hour as the home side built a healthy deserved lead. Indeed, Henley had conceded two tries within the first twenty minutes with some indiscipline which saw Sevenoaks camped on the visitors line for long periods. Their efficient lineout caught Henley out and as a result Henley played the first half an hour with only fourteen men as yellow cards were shown to three players.
The only relief came with a well struck Max Titchner penalty to reduce the arrears. However, this was short lived as poor midfield defence allowed a penetrating run which allowed the lively Sevenoaks back line the space to score close to the posts. With a score line of 19-3 in the home sides favour the outlook was grim for a lacklustre Henley side.
This signalled a brief revival as Rory Mason scored after a series of penetrating drives close to the home sideline, and with Titchener adding the extras Henley went in at halftime only nine points adrift.
The second half was a complete turnaround from the first half. Some strong words at halftime produced a much more inspired response from the visitors. They started to gain a foothold in the visitor’s half and gradually the penalty count which had caused Henley problems in the first half began to be reversed and it was now Henley’s turn to enjoy the majority of possession which resulted in a series of punishing lineout drives. This brought tries from Tom Emery and coupled with a further penalty try Henley found themselves in the lead for the first time in the game.
This should really have signalled a push forward to secure the much-needed win. They were not short of possession or territory and once again a five-metre lineout should have signalled the bonus point try however the throw was adjudged not straight and Sevenoaks breathed a huge sigh of relief.
As a result, the home side were able to work their way upfield and two long range penalties ensured they took the lead once more with just minutes remaining on the clock. Despite this, Henley launched a series of punishing attacks but a resolute defence just about held tight as the final whistle blew to jubilant scenes from the home side and their supporters.
Henley will have to take some clear lessons from this game, the high penalty count in the first half cost was hugely significant and that coupled with indiscipline and poor defence were significant barriers to success. No doubt the players and coaches will be determined to arrest this blip in form. Certainly, they will be severely tested this week from a combative Rochford side.
Henley: Rawsthorn, Crowley, Davies, Flynn, Norville, Titchener, Crow, Mason, Emery, Manning capt Harrison, Ellaboudy, Hall, Lunnon, Vooght, Reps: Macrae, Shpylka, White, Wood, Fenley.