Henley produced a resilient performance against a side two places above them in the league. Indeed the signs looked ominous as the host took an early 14 point lead and Henley had to work hard to contain a dominant home scrummage.
From the kick off, Dorking were quick into their stride and a series of punishing pick and goes eventually saw their prop forward dive over from close range next to the posts making the conversion a formality and an early lead with less than five minutes on the clock. However, Henley were quick to respond and settle into their game. Indeed, some promising attacks were only thwarted by a resolute defence. Unfortunately, as Henley were pressurising the hosts line a loose pass saw the Dorking centre intercept, and with Henley fully committed to attack and no defence to challenge, another try under the posts ensued. With a 14 point deficit, Henley were certainly up against it.
At this stage, Henley’s resilience showed and despite being under pressure they were winning the battle of the breakdown with the backrow of Vooght, MacRae and Bradley dominating. After a series of punishing drives and good support play, a gap opened for Louis Flynn to race in against his old club and secure an all important first score. Max Titchener was successful with the conversion and Henley were now settled into the game.
With a steady stream of possession, Henley continued to run the ball around and starting to penetrate the host’s defence. From one such phase, a move at the blind side caught Dorking napping and Alex Bradley burst through. With a defender to beat, Bradley passed to Ewan Fenley to run around under the posts for Max Titchener to convert to 14 -14. It was now game on and Henley had recovered their early nervousness and to now began to dominate proceedings.
The Hawks started the second half strongly with George Wood attacking incisively from full back to cause the home side’s defence problems. Five minutes after the interval, one such move saw Adam Hankimian score wide out, the conversion falling just short. Henley’s confidence was now growing, but unfortunately a couple of other chances to secure the bonus point try went begging as the Henley backs began to dominate proceedings.
The game then settled into a stop start affair with the visitors constantly penalised at the scrum which results in two yellow cards for Dave Manning and Rory Mason on separate occasions.
However, Henley were not going to lie down and with the lineout functioning particularly well they were able to set up some promising attacking positions. Unfortunately, the bonus point try still eluded them and this made more a very tense last ten minutes as Dorking threw everything at Henley.
However the final play of the game with Dorking held up over the Henley line summed up the afternoon as the defence won the day in the second half. An excellent win and four points on the road is always welcome and Henley will take some valuable lessons from this to ensure they get a faster start in future to be able to build on a lead.
Henley: Wood, Scott-Young, Hakimian, Flynn, Webb, Titchener, Fenley, Manning, Emery, Mason, Harrison, Taylor, MaCrae, Vooght, Bradley. Subs: Frostick, Ellaboudy, Lowe, Hall, Crow.
Report by Nigel Dudding