Henley Hawks 18-18 Dorking
By Alistair Beynon
Henley Hawks and Dorking shared the spoils in an unrelentingly physical encounter at a sodden Dry Leas on Saturday. Ultimately, a draw was a fair result with both sides missing kicks that could have won it, but the commitment shown by both teams made it an absorbing encounter for the decent crowd in attendance.
The excitement was palpable at kick-off and the early exchanges were fierce with neither side giving an inch. However, it was Dorking who were first on the scoresheet after ten minutes after an excellent offload in midfield from Tom Howe saw Cameron Cowell outsprint the Hawks defence to touch down out wide. Henry Anscombe was narrowly wide with his conversion.
However, the setback spurred Henley into life a few minutes later and they took the lead when Leo Webb peeled off the back of a driving maul to dot down for the Hawks first try of the game. Max Titchener added the extras and Henley went ahead, 7-5.
It was a cat and mouse affair with both defences cancelling each other out, but Dorking re-took the lead with an Anscombe penalty five minutes before the break to give Dorking a narrow 8-7 lead after missing a similar kick ten minutes earlier. The half ended with the visitors in the ascendency, but excellent Henley defence managed to see the game out without further alarm.
The second period was an equally cagey contest with both sides having opportunities to pull ahead, but neither grasping them. Titchener was a little off colour by his normal high standards, missing a couple of kickable penalties with Anscombe similarly unable to find his range in the greasy conditions. The two kickers eventually found their touch and traded penalties to make it 11-10 to Dorking going into the final quarter.
An excellent grubber kick from Anscombe saw Tom Howe the first to touch down to further extend the visitors lead to 18-10 leaving Henley with a big task ahead to get something from the game.
Another Titchener penalty brought the game back to within one score at 18-13 going into the final ten minutes of this captivating contest, but the Dorking defence was able to nullify any potential Henley threat posed of them.
However, the Hawks resolve cannot be questioned and time and again this season late tries have come to the rescue, with Saturday being no different. A scrum penalty against the head saw Henley with an opportunity to kick to touch in the Dorking half. A further infringement against the away side gave Titchener the chance to pin them deep within their own 22, and an excellent catch and drive saw replacement hooker, Istok Totic the man to put the finishing touches on a well-worked team try. Titchener was just wide with his touchline conversion making it 18-18 with a couple of minutes left.
There was just enough time for a final twist in the tale as Hawks second row, Omar Ellaboudy was red carded for entering the field of play as a replacement to celebrate the Hawks try. This gave Anscombe an opportunity to steal the victory for Dorking with a penalty attempt from half way. Luckily for Henley, the kick fell just short and they managed to kick the ball out to share the spoils after an enthralling contest.
Henley now head to Barnes this coming Saturday, kick-off 2pm for an equally tough encounter. They will certainly need to tighten up the penalty count against them if they are to come away with the victory against a side who are also challenging at the top of National 2 East.
Evans, Wood, Crowley, McCormick (Hakimian 64), Gordon, Titchener, Webb (Crow 56), Collins (Manning 51), Emery (Totic 56), Mason, Lowe, Ellaboudy (White 64), Benning, Vooght, Lunnon
Reps: Totic, Manning, White, Hakimian, Crow
Cowell, Sanders, Howe, Anscombe, McRae, Holland, Jackson, Birch, Watson (Ellis 43), Connor (Stephenson 43), Howorth, King (Chambers 72), Jardine (Grant 44), Dalton, Osborne
Ellis, Stephenson, Chambers, Grant, Smith
Tries: Webb 14, Totic 79
Conversions: Titchener 15
Penalties: Titchener 56, 64
Tries: Cowell 10, Howe 61
Conversions: Anscombe 62
Penalties: Anscombe 33, 48
Star Man: Marcus Lowe (Henley)
Referee: Simon Waite
Halftime scoreline: Henley 7-8 Dorking
Match photos courtesy of Andrew Turner