Hawks Edge Titanic Tussle with North Walsham
Henley Hawks 42-40 North Walsham
An utterly absorbing contest was edged by Henley Hawks with a sensational second half comeback that saw them take the spoils at a sodden Dry Leas.
North Walsham opened the scoring after just two minutes with winger, Jordan Mustard crossing out wide following the Vikings first foray into the Henley 22. It was clear that despite their lowly league position, the visitors had come to play and more than matched the Hawks in the opening exchanges with fly-half, Matt Hodgson pulling the strings.
A shell-shocked Hawks fell further behind a few minutes later when second row, Ryan Oakes crashed over following a well-worked driving maul.
Henley were struggling to find any sort of cohesion in their game and the visitors capitalised on the home sides errors, going over for their third of the afternoon when Ethan Holmwood dotted down to give Walsham a healthy 19-0 after just 22 minutes on the clock.
This spurred the Hawks into life and a dominant scrum was rewarded with a penalty try to put Henley on the scoreboard with 25 minutes gone.
However, any hope of a comeback was quickly stifled as the visitors soon found themselves back in the Henley 22, and secured their try bonus point on the half hour mark with Mustard crossing for his second of the afternoon, converted again by the excellent Hodgson.
It was a real end-to-end contest now, and to give the Hawks credit, they refused to lie down. The outstanding Ewan Fenley spotted a gap in the North Walsham defence and powered over to narrow the gap with an excellent solo effort, converted well by Max Titchener to make it 26-14 to the Vikings at half time.
The opening 15 minutes of the second period was a cagier affair with the Walsham defence holding firm to repel any Henley attack. However, the pressure soon told when George Wood ghosted over for the home side near the hour mark. This brought Henley back to within 7 points with Titchener again converting to make the score 26-21.
However, the Vikings crossed for their fifth try of the afternoon from James Riley shortly afterwards to extend the lead again, after Henley lost possession trying to run the ball from their own 22.
With 15 minutes left, and 33-21 up it looked like it would be a mountain too high to climb, but with the visitors now tiring, the Hawks took advantage and fought back strongly with replacement prop, Ollie Frostick barrelling over under the sticks to cut the gap back to 33-28.
It was well and truly game on, and Henley took the lead for the first time when a superb break from Wood down the flank was well finished by Fenley for his second. With Titchener nailing a tricky conversion, it put the Hawks up 35-33 with just 6 minutes left on the clock.
The home side were now rampant and with Walsham coughing up possession in their own 22, Sam Lunnon expertly fed in centre, Adam Hakimian to put the finishing touches on the Hawks sixth to take them to a seemingly unassailable 42-33 lead.
However, in a game full of twists and turns, Walsham never gave up and secured two deserved bonus points at the death with Dan Smith touching down for the visitors after a home scrum went against the head. Hodgson converted from out wide.
With time to launch one last attack, the visitors looked to spin the ball out to the pacey Mustard, but an errant pass was gleefully booted out by Fenley to secure Henley’s triumph, 42-40 in an error-strewn but fascinating contest that could have gone either way.
Full credit to North Walsham who fought until the very end, but Henley had just enough to see it home and collect a maximum 5 points to keep them in sixth place in a very competitive National 2 East. Next up for the Hawks is the visit of Sevenoaks to Dry Leas next Saturday, March 25th with a 3pm kick-off.
15. Wood, 14. Scott-Young, 13. Flynn, 12. Hakimian, 11. Webb, 10. Titchener (Cookland 52), 9. Fenley, 1. Manning (Frostick 58), 2. MacRae 3. Mason, 4. Harrison (Lunnon 47), 5. Taylor (Ellaboudy 58), 6. Lowe, 7. White (Sichel 52), 8. Bradley
Replacements: 16. Sichel, 17. Frostick, 18. Ellaboudy, 19. Cookland, 20. Lunnon
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