Barnes 31-21 Henley Hawks
After three consecutive wins, Henley were in buoyant mood as they travelled to west London on Saturday. Having beaten Barnes early in the season Henley knew this would be a tough assignment as the hosts were lying in third place but only two points ahead.
Henley got off to the best possible start as the hosts were penalised at the breakdown, rather than taking a reasonably straightforward kick at goal Henley went to the corner and after a series of punishing driving mauls Rory Mason was on hand to touch down and with a straightforward conversion by Max Titchener Henley were up 7 nil in the space of five minutes.
Within a few minutes Henley were on the attack again and looked to create a scoring opportunity only for the final pass to be adjudged forward and Barnes were able to relieve their lines. This was about as good as it got for Henley as the home side settled into a rhythm and with their scrum half dictating play, they were quickly on level terms as a driving lineout of their own brought a score wide out. With the conversion falling just short Henley were still ahead. However, this was short lived as loose play and a series of penalties gave the initiative to Barnes which they readily accepted and produced some excellent broken-field play to score two converted tries within the next ten minutes to stretch their lead to 19 points to 7. Henley at this point were unable to complete any meaningful phases to put pressure on the home sides defence. Another penalty just before half time ensured a healthy lead of 22 points to nine at half time.
It was clear that Henley needed to throw caution to the wind in the second half and playing into a stiff breeze they played some of their best rugby. The introduction of young Morgan Macrae at wing forward added some bite to the attack and holes started to appear in a previously solid looking home side defence.
A penetrating run by Macrae nearly bought a well deserved try but he was able to off load to Adam Hakimian to score midway out. Max Titchener added the extras and Henley were now up and running. However, a brief lapse in concentration once more saw Barnes relieve a little pressure with a well taken penalty.
Back came Henley on the attack once more and once again Macrae was instrumental in creating openings for Ryan Crowley to score and Max Titchener to convert. It was now a four-point ball game and everything to play for. Indeed, another attack looked to have produced a decisive score but the final pass was once again adjudged to have been forward and Barnes could breathe a little easier.
Unfortunately, two late penalties following from mistakes deep in the Henley half ensured that Barnes eased to victory and Henley sadly came away empty handed. This was a game that ebbed and flowed but ultimately Henley paid the price for a lacklustre first half which cost them dear.
Henley: Manning (c), Emery, Mason, Ellaboudy, Harrison, Hall, Lunnon, White, Crow, Titchener, Scott, Flynn, Hakimian, Crowley, Wood. Reps: Fenley, Frostick, Macrae, Clark, Rawsthorn.
Report by Nigel Dudding