Hawks Beat Tonbridge With Injury Time Conversion by One Point

Henley Hawks 27-26 Tonbridge Juddians

An injury time try from Ryan Crowley and a nerveless conversion from Max Titchener saw Henley Hawks come back from a 13-point last quarter deficit to defeat Tonbridge Juddians, 27-26 in an enthralling National 2 East clash at Dry Leas on Saturday.

It was a fractious contest with no quarter given by either side and considering that only one point separated the sides before the game, you felt it was always going to be a closely fought match-up.

Played in glorious early Autumn sunshine, it was the visitors who came out firing and took an early lead when winger, Joseph Parkes crashed over out wide. Sam Evans nailed his touchline conversion to put TJ’s up 7-0 after only two minutes on the clock. This sparked Henley into life, and they levelled soon after when Marcus Lowe powered his way over on the blind side with Titchener adding the extras.

A Titchener penalty put Henley in front 10-7 before Evans levelled for TJ’s with a penalty of his own shortly afterwards. It was a real cat and mouse affair with both defences cancelling each other out, but Titchener soon restored Henley’s narrow lead following poor discipline from the away side. However, Evans was not to be outdone by his opposite number and both sides went in level, 13-13 at the break.

The second half started with Henley in the ascendancy having much of the territory and possession. Frustratingly for the Hawks, a well-struck Titchener penalty came back off the upright and the visitors managed to clear. The Hawks launched another attack, but this time a Parkes interception from within his own 22 saw him being tackled short of the line. The ball was recycled well and veteran centre, Duncan Tout crashed over out wide. Evans was narrowly wide with his conversion attempt, but the visitors had taken an important 18-13 lead.

Henley looked shell-shocked and fell further behind when the excellent Parkes went over for his second of the game ten minutes later. Crucially, Evans missed the extras again keeping Henley in the match at 23-13.

TJ’s were now spotting gaps in the Henley defence all too easily, and an Evans penalty on the hour mark seemed to put the game beyond reach for a beleaguered Henley side. However, with the bench now starting to have an impact on proceedings, the Hawks worked patiently through the gears and began to assert their authority on a tired-looking TJ’s. A kick to the corner saw replacement hooker, Istok Totic dot down from the back of a rolling maul giving Henley a much-needed try, and with the impressive Titchener adding the conversion, it brought the game back to within one score at 26-20 to the visitors.

From here on in, it was all one-way traffic as the Hawks launched attack after attack on the TJ’s line, but the red wall held firm. Perhaps lacking a cutting edge that should have put the contest to bed earlier, and with three yellow cards awarded to the visitors in the last ten minutes for various indiscretions, it felt like it wasn’t going to be Henley’s afternoon.

However, with the clock now in the red, Hawks fullback Toby Evans spotted a gap out wide to feed Crowley into space and dodging his way past a couple of desperate tackles, he managed to cross the whitewash much to the delight of the Henley faithful. Having the wherewithal to somehow find his way closer to the posts, it gave Titchener a better shot at the sticks for a conversion to snatch victory which seemed unlikely fifteen minutes earlier. With the whole of Dry Leas in collective silence, Titchener dissected the uprights seeing Henley home by the barest of margins prompting jubilant scenes amongst both players and supporters.

After the game, Hawks Director of Rugby, Luke Allen was understandably in a buoyant mood. ‘We showed real character to come back into that contest. They defended unbelievably well, particularly in the last ten minutes, but I’m delighted to have got the win against a very good side. There’s much for us to work on for next week’s game at Esher, but it’s a positive step in the right direction’.

Henley

Evans, Wood, Hall, Rawsthorn, Crowley, Titchener, Webb (Crow 50), Manning, Emery (Totic 55), Mason (Collins 50), Lowe, Lunnon, Vooght, White (Benning 55), Bradley (Ellaboudy 64)

Reps: Totic, Collins, Benning, Ellaboudy, Crow

Tonbridge Juddians

Hotston (Beaumont 20), Parkes (Lucas 77), Osgood, Tout, Kendrick (Hayes 79), Evans, Petrozzi, Reid, Holling (Luke 64), Conlon (Whitmarsh 28), McGeekie (Hayes 10), Parker, Munnelly, Nicoll, Koomson (Whitmarsh 77)

Reps:

Luke, Whitmarsh, Hayes, Lucas, Beaumont

By Alistair Beynon
Photo Andrew Turner

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