Barnes 22-27 Henley Hawks
By Alistair Beynon
A brace of tries from Adam Hakimian was the catalyst for Henley Hawks to secure a superb 27-22 try bonus point win at fellow promotion hopefuls, Barnes on Saturday afternoon.
Indeed, it was arguably Henley's best performance of the season so far with real intensity and commitment shown from the whole squad that proved too much for the beleaguered hosts.
After a cagey opening, it was the Londoners who opened the scoring after 10 minutes when Barnes' livewire scrum half, Josh Davies spotted a gap in the Henley defence to weave his way in to score beneath the sticks. The conversion from Ben Cook was a formality and the hosts had taken an early 7-0 lead.
However, the Hawks soon hit back with a try of their own after an excellent break from Ryan Crowley in midfield fed in Hakimian to cross the whitewash untouched. Max Titchener added the extras and it was 7-7 after the first quarter gone.
It was a real end-to-end affair and the home side re-took the lead almost straight away. Some poor defending from the Hawks saw Barnes centre, Pete Weightman power his way over all too easily. Cook's conversion was off target, but the Hawks knew they needed to tighten their defensive line if they were to come away from the game with a win.
However, this Henley side never know when they're beaten, and again they hit back with 25 minutes on the clock. The ever-impressive Hawks flanker, Will Benning spotted a big gap in midfield and his deft offload to Crowley fed in Hakimian for his second of the game to touch down out wide. Titchener was narrowly wide with his conversion, but the scores were level again at 12-12.
Despite being in the ascendency with Leo Webb almost finding space to score a third try for Henley, it was the home side who went ahead again just before the interval with a second try for Weightman who barrelled over from close range. Cook added the extras and Barnes went in at the break with a 19-12 lead.
Henley started the second half with real purpose and straight from the kick-off there was excellent intent shown from the away side. A fantastic Sam Lunnon break on halfway saw the second row offload to Number 8, Zack Taylor who crashed over for their third try of the game. Titchener was narrowly wide again with his difficult conversion, but Henley were back in it at 19-17.
The Hawks were now on top at the set piece, with both the scrum and lineout performing well. The introduction of big second rower, Alex Hayton making his Henley debut added significant presence to the Henley pack, and his contribution was telling.
With 47 minutes on the clock, the Hawks took the lead for the first time following a powerful driving maul. Hooker, Tom Emery was the man to put the finishing touches on an excellent team try, securing a try bonus point in the process. Titchener added the extras and Henley were now ahead 24-19.
A further Titchener penalty just a few minutes later pulled the Hawks two scores clear with 30 minutes left, leaving the hosts struggling to find their foothold in the game. This certainly wasn't helped by a missed penalty from Cook on 55 minutes when audible groans could now be heard amongst the home faithful.
However, the fly half found his range with 10 minutes left to make it 27-22 to Henley and a nervy last few minutes for the Hawks to navigate.
A lineout in the Henley 22 gave Barnes an excellent opportunity to steal the lead, but resolute Hawks defence snuffed out any potential threat and with the away side awarded a scrum, it gave them an opportunity to clear their lines.
The last few minutes were very assured from the Hawks and they saw the game out without further alarm to secure an excellent win. The key will be to back this up with the visit of Westcombe Park to Dry Leas this coming Saturday, December 2nd. Kick-off 3pm.
Henley: 1. Manning, 2. Emery, 3. Mason, 4. Lowe, 5. Lunnon, 6. Benning, 7. Vooght (c), 8. Taylor, 9. Webb, 10. Titchener, 11. Gordon, 12. Hakimian, 13. Crowley, 14. Wood, 15. Evans
Replacements: 16. Totic, 17. Collins, 18. Hayton, 19. Oatley, 20. Crow
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa available here.