Bonus Point Triumph for Hawks at Home

Henley Hawks 29-19 Worthing Raiders

Henley put the disappointment of the North Walsham defeat behind them as they bounced back to winning ways with a convincing performance over old rivals Worthing Raiders on Saturday afternoon.

Fourteen points from fly half Jordan Oatley helped the Hawks secure the try bonus point triumph which keeps them in the hunt for a top four finish in the ever-competitive National 2 East.

The first half was a frenetic affair with both sides keen to play fast flowing rugby, and despite early pressure from Worthing, it was the Hawks who pulled ahead after just 5 minutes when wing Lailand Gordon crossed out wide. Marcus Lowe, on his 150th appearance for Henley, spotted a gap in midfield and his excellent offload to Kadeem Collins saw the prop plough his way into the visitors 22. Quick hands from the Henley backs saw the ball spun wide to Gordon who finished brilliantly in the corner. With Oatley nailing the difficult touchline conversion, the home side were up and running with a 7-0 lead.

Henley were continuing to find gaps in the Worthing defence and were rewarded with a second try 10 minutes later when the rampaging Collins bulldozed his way over from close range. It was another notable performance from the young prop who has done an excellent job filling in for the injured Dave Manning in recent weeks.

Despite having plenty of possession and territory, Worthing couldn’t quite make it count. A combination of stout defence from the Hawks and poor handling was costing the away side dear, and Henley made them pay for it on the half hour mark.

A scything break in the Raiders half from fullback Toby Evans saw him feed in George Wood to dot down out wide. Despite Oatley missing the tricky conversion, Henley had pulled away to a 19-0 lead, leaving Worthing with a mountain to climb to get back into the contest.

The first half finished with the visitors again in the ascendancy, but tenacious defence from the Hawks on their own line managed to repel wave after wave of attacks. With debutant hooker, Ben Henderson winning a penalty for Henley on the stoke of half time, it gave them the opportunity to head into the changing rooms with a commanding lead.

The second half started with the visitors again attacking the Hawks 22, but again the home sides defence held firm causing them to knock on with the line beckoning. It seems to have been an issue for Worthing all season long with mistakes being punished all too frequently, and Oatley secured the try bonus point after 47 minutes to all but seal the contest when the elusive fly half spotted a gap in the visitors defence to dot down. With Oatley adding the extras to his own try, Henley had built a seemingly unassailable 26-0 lead.

Heading into the last quarter, the ever-present Scott White, also making his 150th appearance for the Hawks, made way for replacement Morgan Macrae. Macrae suffered a near fatal cardiac arrest in August last year, and his triumphant return to the pitch was greeted by the loudest cheer from the Dry Leas crowd all afternoon. The combative flanker was quick into the action and his comeback will have delighted Hawks Director of Rugby Luke Allen as we head into the final stretch of the season.

With 10 minutes of the game remaining, Worthing continued to attack the Hawks 22, and to their credit, they fought back valiantly. Wing Curtis Barnes was the first to touch down in the corner following another bombardment to get the away side on the scoreboard.

With Hawks centre Ryan Crowley in the sin bin, this was followed by a second for the visitors when prop, Ben Featherstone powered his way over from close range to cut the deficit to 26-12 with 5 minutes left on the clock.

An Oatley penalty allayed any potential fears of a Worthing comeback, but the away side managed to pick up a third and final try with the clock in the red when Harrison Sims crossed the whitewash. With Louis Ellis converting, it took the final score to 29-19 to Henley in what was a pulsating game of rugby between two sides who were keen to run the ball from anywhere on the pitch.

For the Hawks, there were plenty of positives heading into next Saturday’s clash with third-placed Dorking. And with only 5 games left of the season, Henley will be pushing hard for a top four finish in National 2 East.

Henley Hawks

Evans, Wood, Crowley, Rawsthorn (Hakimian 70), Gordon, Oatley, Webb (Pattison 70), Collins (Frostick 58), Henderson (Totic 66), Mason (Collins 70), Lowe, Lunnon, White (Macrae 60), Vooght, Bradley (White 70)

Reps: Totic, Frostick, Macrae, Pattison, Hakimian

By Alistair Beynon

Photo by Andrew Turner

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