Brace of Tries for Gordan in Hawks Victory Over Flying-High Barnes

Henley Hawks 39-26 Barnes

Henley Hawks saved their best performance of the season against high-flying Barnes on Saturday with a combative and clinical display to come away with a thoroughly deserved 39-26 bonus point triumph.

A brace of tries for Lailand Gordan and 14 points off the boot of stand in fly half Adam Hakimian was the catalyst for Henley to overcome the West London side who had been in a rich vein of form, having won their previous 8 matches heading into this encounter.

A dominant set piece set the tone for Henley and poor discipline from the visitors meant the Hawks were allowed plenty of territory and possession. However, it was Barnes who opened the scoring after just 4 minutes when Ethan Sikorski powered over from a driving maul to give them an early advantage. Tom Wilstead missed the conversion, but Barnes had a 5-0 lead.

However, the setback didn’t deter Henley and the home side hit back right away when a quick tap penalty from Leo Webb saw the scrum half fight his way deep into the Barnes 22. Spotting an overlap, Henley managed to spin the ball out to Gordon who found space to dot down. Hakimian’s excellent touchline conversion gave the Hawks a 7-5 lead.

With Hakimian in the unfamiliar role of playing as a kicking fly half, he looked calm and controlled pulling the strings for the home side like he had played there all season, and his penalty extended the lead further to 10-5 after 10 minutes.

Henley’s scrum was causing the visitors all sorts of problems, and with Dave Manning in the starting XV following a long injury lay-off, it was great to see the loosehead prop back to his abrasive best.

Henley’s physicality at the breakdown was also proving to be a thorn in the side for the away team, and they were struggling to keep their discipline under control. Eventually, replacement prop Maurice Nwakor was given a yellow card for one too many penalties against them and Henley had a man advantage close to the half hour mark.

Frustratingly, despite being in the ascedancy, it was Barnes who grabbed the next score in fortuitous circumstances when an interception on half way saw their speedy wing Jacques Birch cruise in under the posts untouched. Wilstead added the extras and Barnes had a 12-10 lead despite seeing little of the ball.

However, the home side continued to work hard and were rewarded several minutes later when Guy Rawsthorn spotted space in midfield to feed in George Wood whose electric pace saw the fullback into the Barnes 22. His inside pass to Gordon gave the wing space to cross for his second of the game under the posts. With Hakimian’s conversion a formality, Henley re-took the lead at 17-12 close to half-time.

With the referee spotting an infringement before the try, Barnes were reduced to 14 men again with Paul Webb given his marching orders, and Henley quickly took advantage. Hakimian’s kick to the corner saw Istok Totic the man to dot down following an excellent driving maul and a second try in just 2 minutes. With Hakimian converting, Henley went in at the break 24-12 up following a breathless first half.

The second half started as the first had ended with Henley back on the front foot, and the lead was extended further when Will Benning peeled off the back of another driving maul to cross the whitewash for the bonus point try. Hakimian again converted and the lead was stretched to 31-12 after 43 minutes gone.

Henley’s dominance against the second placed side was further cemented by another penalty 10 minutes later, and at 34-12 the Hawks were starting to feel the contest was all but over. However, the visitors had other ideas and slowly began to assert their dominance on proceedings.

With Totic having received a yellow card for Henley close to the hour mark, Barnes were back on the scoreboard when livewire scrum half Josh Davies sniped his way over for their third of the game. With Wilstead converting, Henley’s lead was cut to 34-19.

A third yellow card for Barnes, this time to Number 8 James Gallagher gave Henley further opportunities to put the game to bed, but Webb knocked on with the try line beckoning and Rawsthorn’s score was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.

Frustratingly, Barnes took advantage of the Hawks wastefulness and secured their bonus point try when Birch was the first man to touch down following a loose ball being hacked onwards towards the Hawks line. With Wilstead adding the extras, the score was now 34-26 with 8 minutes remaining and suddenly a few nervous glances were being exchanged amongst the Henley faithful.

However, the contest was sealed on the stroke of full time when Manning powered over from close range for Henley’s fifth try of the game. Hakimian missed the conversion but it didn’t matter as the Hawks had secured a sensational 39-26 victory that saw them cement their fifth place position in National 2 East.

With a week off for the Easter break, Henley are next in action on Saturday, April 6th with a visit to Westcombe Park, kick-off 3pm. And with only 3 games of the season remaining, they will be pushing hard for a top 4 finish.

By Alistair Beynon

Photo: Andrew Turner


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