Henley Hawks 73-13 Westcliff
A ruthless Henley Hawks dominated from the start against struggling Westcliff on Saturday afternoon, scoring eleven tries in a resounding 73-13 triumph over the Essex side.
A Sam Lunnon brace on his 100th appearance for the Hawks lead the way for what proved to be an excellent win for Luke Allen’s men, moving Henley up to 5th place in a competitive National 2 East league table.
Henley raced out of the blocks when Lunnon crossed the whitewash after only a couple of minutes on the clock. Spotting a gap in the visitors defence on half way, Lunnon shifted through the gears and went over untouched to give the Hawks an early lead. Max Titchener was on hand to add the extras, his first of nine conversions on the day.
Westcliff quickly settled into a rhythm and got themselves on the scoresheet not long afterwards with a well-struck Greg Bannister penalty. With Henley appearing a little disorganised and their discipline found wanting, Bannister struck a second shortly afterwards to cut the deficit further with the Hawks struggling to find cohesion in their game.
However, this spurred Henley into action and they quickly came back into the contest. Relentless pressure from the home side finally paid dividends when Adam Hakimian went over for the Hawks second, followed not long afterwards by the ever-present, George Wood, who put the finishing touches on an excellent team move. Both tries were converted by Titchener to give the Hawks a 21-6 lead with 35 minutes on the clock.
The Hawks were now rampant, finding gaps in the Westcliff defence at will. A kick to the corner gave Tom Emery the opportunity to secure the Hawks try bonus point with a well-worked driving maul, before Lunnon crossed for his second on the stroke of half time to put the contest out of reach for the beleaguered Essex side. The Hawks went in at the break 35-6 up and by far the happier of the two teams.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first with Wood going over for his second of the game with a superb solo effort. Picking up the ball in his own half, the fullback evaded several tackles before dotting down under the posts. It was a sensational effort from the fullback and a genuine contender for try of the season. Titchener converted to extend the lead to 42-6.
The Hawks now scented blood and Reuben Norville ghosted his way through a tiring Westcliff defence just a minute later following good work from Hakimian to put the winger into space to finish well out wide. Titchener this time was just wide with the extras.
With their confidence high, an excellent break from Louis Flynn fed in Wood, whose offload to Leo Webb saw the young utility back dive over for the Hawks eighth try, which was excellently converted by Titchener out wide.
Henley weren’t finished yet, and more sustained pressure from the Hawks in the Westcliff 22 yielded further scores from Kaleem Niazi with the prop burrowing over from close range, and two for the outstanding Morgan MacRae. The youngster has been in excellent form for the Hawks of late and yet another impressive showing was capped with a deserved brace.
To their credit, Westcliff secured a consolation try for their efforts on the stroke of full time with James Smith crashing over from close range, but it was the Hawks who took the spoils with a thumping victory, their sixth in their last seven games.
The focus now shifts to Blackheath away this coming Saturday. The South Londoners have been in imperious form with only two defeats all season, and are sitting comfortably at the top of National 2 East with a 12-point gap between them and second placed, Worthing Raiders. However, galvanised by their recent showings, the Hawks will be keen to reverse the narrow 15-6 defeat at Dry Leas back in October, so it really does promise to be an exciting encounter between the two heavyweights. Kick-off at Well Hall is 3pm.
15. Wood (Crow 70), 14. Norville, 13. Flynn, 12. Hakimian, 11. Webb, 10. Titchener, 9. Crow (Fenley 49), 1. Penrose (Niazi 41), 2. Emery (Morris 55), 3. Niazi (Frostick 33), 4. Harrison (Ellaboudy 55), 5. Lunnon, 6. MacRae, 7. White (Lowe 49), 8. Vooght
Replacements: 16. Frostick, 17. Ellaboudy, 18. Lowe, 19. Morris, 20. Fenley