Tonbridge Juddians 17-24 Henley Hawks
Henley Hawks put together an excellent performance on Saturday to come away with a very well earned five-point win over old rivals, Tonbridge Juddians.
Playing on a very heavy pitch against a side who had only lost once at home all season, including victories over promotion hopefuls, Blackheath, Dorking and Old Albanian, the Hawks knew it was going to be a tough assignment to come away with the win.
Indeed, TJ’s flew out of the traps and quickly established a seven point lead early on when Luke Talbot crossed the whitewash for the home side. Tom White added the extras from out wide. A shell-shocked Hawks were quickly back on the defensive and following an injury to Louis Flynn, TJ’s earned a penalty at the scrum to extend the lead to 10-0 with White again on target for the hosts.
This spurred the Hawks into life, and they put together some excellent phases with Tom Hall, Tom Vooght and Sam Lunnon all making hard yards. However, a bulldozing run from Morgan MacRae saw the Hawks into the hosts 22 for the first time, and quick hands from Adam Hakimian and George Wood saw the ball spun wide to Ryan Crowley who finished well in the corner. Titchener was just wide with his conversion attempt.
To both sides credit, they were keen to run the ball despite the heavy conditions. An excellent kick in behind the home defense from Will Crow saw TJ’s just about manage to clear into touch just before Reuben Norville could get his hands on the ball. However, from the resulting lineout, the Hawks steamrolled over the hosts defense with a perfectly executed driving maul. Tom Emery was the man to put the finishing touches on an excellent team try. Titchener again was just wide with the conversion.
With 30 minutes gone, and with the Hawks gaining parity on the scoreboard at 10-10, it was all to play for. However, it was TJ’s who were quickly back on the attack and some heroic last ditch defending from Reuben Norville and a healthy dose of good fortune saw the home side penalised on the Hawks line. The pressure was only relieved for a a couple of minutes as yet again, the home side were back on the offensive. This time, a superb covering tackle from Lunnon saw Talbot bundled into touch with the try line beckoning.
Poor discipline from TJ’s saw Henley work the ball patiently into the hosts half, and the opportunity to grab a third try just before the half time whistle was well taken following another excellent driving maul. This time, however, the referee saw another infringement and awarded the Hawks with a penalty try and a yellow card to TJ’s in the process. With Henley having weathered the storm, they went in at the break the happier of the two sides with a slender 17-10 lead.
With the man advantage, Henley started the second half with real impetus and soon found themselves within the hosts 22 again. However, despite continually driving at the line, the home side defended stoutly and managed to clear when the ball held up over the try line.
The contest was very much end-to-end now, and TJ’s saw another opportunity go begging after being penalised again on the Henley line. With the Hawks working their way up field, yet another storming break from MacRae into the hosts 22 was rewarded this time by Omar Ellaboudy dotting down to earn Henley their try bonus point. This time, Titchener was spot on with his conversion attempt.
At 24-10 up, the Hawks knew the home side would have to take some risks in order to get back into the contest. And despite some excellent work getting into the Henley 22, again the home side were penalised for holding on with the try line at their mercy.
It was proving to be a frustrating afternoon for TJ’s as a combination of ill-discipline and some superb Henley defence managed to keep daylight between the two sides on the scoreboard.
However, the pressure soon told, and another foray into the visitors half was eventually rewarded with the home side going over in the corner for their second try of the afternoon with some ten minutes remaining. The Hawks will feel a little aggrieved as there was more than a passing suggestion that the ball was knocked on over the line. As it was, White added the extras from out wide to leave Henley with a nervy last few minutes to contend with.
Again, TJ’s came back at the Hawks with waves of pressure and again, the Hawks heroically defended their line. The home side earned a penalty in front of the posts with a couple of minutes to go, but opted for the lineout to try and level the scores. Thankfully for the visitors, TJ’s were struggling at the lineout and were able to steal the ball and clear to halfway following some excellent work from Ewan Fenley, Vooght and MacRae.
However, a penalty at the scrum gave TJ’s another opportunity to kick to touch. This time, the lineout wasn’t straight and Henley breathed a big sigh of relief and were able to clear. It gave TJ’s one last opportunity to attack from the 22, but once again the Hawks put pressure on the home sides lineout with Ellaboudy this time managing to steal the ball. This gave Fenley the opportunity to kick the ball out which signaled the end of the game and a very hard-earned bonus point triumph for the Hawks. It moves Henley up to fifth in National 2 East with four wins from their last five games. Four of which have been away from home.
With a rest day this coming weekend to mark the first round of Six Nations matches, Henley are back in action at Dry Leas on Saturday, February 11th with Old Albanian the visitors to Dry Leas, kick-off is 3pm.
Henley Hawks: 1. Manning (c), 2. Emery, 3. Frostick, 4. Harrison, 5. Lunnon, 6. MacRae, 7. Hall, 8. Vooght, 9. Crow, 10. Titchener, 11. Crowley, 12. Hakimian, 13. Flynn, 14. Scott, 15. Wood.
Replacements: 16. Mason, 17. Ellaboudy, 18. White, 19. Norville, 20. Fenley
Match photo courtesy of Tonbridge Juddians.
By Alistair Beynon