Hawks Edged Out by Old Albanians

Henley Hawks 24-27 Old Albanian

Old Albanian ended Henley Hawks proud unbeaten home record with a hard-fought victory at Dry Leas on Saturday.

Lead out by hooker, Tom Emery on his 200th appearance for the Hawks, it was ultimately a disappointing afternoon for the Henley faithful as they were edged out by a disciplined OA’s side who took their chances when they came. Henley, however, were left to rue several missed opportunities and were a little under par given their recent solid performances.

Both sides traded early scores with the excellent Ben Alexander scoring for OA’s with just two minutes on the clock. The combative flanker peeled off the back of a driving maul to evade some frantic cover defence, and with Sam Jones adding the extras the visitors were ahead before most of the crowd had time to draw breath.

However, Henley quickly responded following a superb break from fullback and former Old Albanian, Toby Evans which saw George Wood put the finishing touches on an excellent team try. Max Titchener was narrowly wide with his conversion attempt and it was 7-5 after four minutes.

Despite the two early scores, the game quickly settled into a cat-and-mouse contest with neither side giving an inch, and in a game about fine margins, it was Sam Jones who was faultless from the tee that gave the visitors the edge. A penalty for Jones extended the visitors lead before Will Benning put Henley in front on the twenty-minute mark following an excellent catch and drive. With the conversion from Titchener, the Hawks went in front, 12-10.

Disappointingly for Henley, the lead didn’t last long. A further Jones penalty was followed by a sensational Harry Legg try on the stroke of half time, after the fullback ghosted his way through the Henley defence from his own half to give the visitors a 20-12 advantage at the break.

Henley improved in the second half and a try for Emery after 47 minutes, following another excellent driving maul, pulled it back to a one-score game. However, any hopes of a comeback seemed to be extinguished after two key talking points which saw successive yellow cards for Rory Mason and Leo Webb, within a minute of each other gave OA’s a significant advantage. Mason was dismissed for a succession of penalties against the Hawks and Webb, for a deliberate knock on, which appeared more than a little harsh on the winger.

The Hawks struggled to adapt to referee Peter Buchanan’s complicated approach to officiating the contest, particularly in the second half, and the visitors made the most of their numerical advantage with scrum half Bailey Thomas sniping over to keep the Hawks at arms-length, 27-17.

With Mason and Webb now back on the pitch, a try for the winger brought them back to 27-24 with just seven minutes remaining following Titchener’s conversion. And when an excellent kick to touch from the Henley fly half set the Hawks up with a 5-metre lineout, and a chance to steal the win with the clock in the red, a knock-on from the lineout gave the visitors the chance to gleefully boot the ball into touch to secure victory. The Hawks secured two points for losing under seven points and for securing four tries in the process, but it could have and probably should have been more.

All in all, it was a frustrating afternoon for Henley, but they will be heartened by what has been an encouraging first half of the season. With the Hawks sitting in fifth place in National 2 East, there will be plenty of optimism in the camp that they can build on some very good performances moving into the second half of the campaign.

Henley welcome Westcombe Park to Dry Leas on January 6th for their first game back after the Christmas break, kick-off 3pm.

Henley

Evans, Webb, Wood, Hakimian, Strugar, Titchener, Crow (Oatley 70), Manning (White 70), Emery (Totic 59), Mason, Lowe (Hayton 59), Lunnon, Benning, Vooght, Taylor (Collins 59)

Reps: Totic, Collins, Hayton, Oatley, White

By Alistair Beynon

 

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