Hawks Lose After North Walsham Give Second-Half Fightback

North Walsham Vikings 35-26 Henley Hawks 

Despite leading 19-7 at half time, a stirring second half fightback from North Walsham saw them power their way past a depleted Hawks to record a convincing 35-26 bonus point triumph.

It was a bitterly disappointing afternoon for Luke Allen’s men as they went down to a side who had failed to register a victory all season but to give them credit, fought valiantly and came away from the contest with a richly deserved five points.

For Henley, despite travelling up to Norfolk with a much-depleted side following a raft of player unavailability’s, they will be desperate to get back out on the pitch this coming Saturday against Worthing to prove that this performance was a blip in what had been an impressive season to date.

The game was played in monsoon-like conditions which made the going very tough for both sides and it was Henley who looked more assured in the first 40 minutes.

The trusty catch and drive which has been so well deployed all season proved again to be a potent weapon for the Hawks, and they took an early lead when Tom Emery was the man to dot down. Jordan Oatley added the extras and Henley had built a 7-0 lead.

However, the home side quickly got into their stride and looked far from the the team that were cast adrift at the foot of National 2 East. Concerted pressure in the Hawks 22 eventually told when Billy Tait powered his way over and with Ross Magnus converting, the scores were soon level at 7-7.

Opportunities for either side were few and far between as the tricky conditions and solid defence from both sides cancelled each other out. However, three minutes of magic from Oatley just before the half time whistle gave Henley a big advantage heading into the break. The fly half scored an excellent brace following two defensive lapses and converting one of them, took his points tally to 14 and Henley to a 19-7 lead at the interval.

The second half started with Henley back in the ascendancy, but despite coming close to extending the lead further, North Walsham defended valiantly and won a penalty and an opportunity to relieve the pressure.

What followed was a 10 minute spell that Henley will want to forget. The home side managed to score three tries and blew the contest wide open. Harry Steward’s excellent break fed in Connor Dudley for the first, Ethan Holmwood was driven over for the second following a well-worked driving maul, and finally Ewan Kingdon added a third when he broke clear from the back of a maul and evaded several errant tackles before crossing the whitewash. It left the Hawks shell-shocked, and moved the Vikings clear at 28-19 heading into the final quarter.

However, Henley weren’t done yet and pulled themselves back into the contest with 20 minutes remaining. Alex Bradley, returning to the side following a long injury lay-off, was the man to put the finishing touches on another catch and drive try, securing the Hawks bonus point in the process. WIth Oatley adding the conversion, it was just two points in it at 28-26 to the home side and a nervy last 20 minutes remained.

With the rain now teeming down on an already saturated surface, unforced errors littered the game. Both sides created half chances to take the points but it was North Walsham who looked more assured with ball in hand, and they were rewarded with a fifth try in the final minute when the elusive Tawanda Kandemwa sealed the victory for the home side when he crossed excellently out wide.

Despite the loss, Henley moved up to fourth place in National 2 East by securing the try bonus point. However, it was an afternoon to forget for Henley and they move onto the Worthing clash this coming Saturday and opportunity to bounce back to winning ways.

Henley: 15. Rawsthorn, 14. Strugar, 13. Crowley, 12. Hakimian, 11. Gordon, 10. Oatley, 9. Pattison, 1. Bailey, 2. Emery, 3. Frostick, 4. Lowe, 5. Hayton, 6. White, 7. Vooght (c). 8. Benning

Replacements: 16. Brouard, 17. Shpylka, 18. Bradley, 19. Gibbins, 20. Harris

By Alistair Beynon

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