Guernsey Raiders 24-42 Henley Hawks 

By Alistair Beynon

Henley Hawks brought the curtain down on their 2023/24 season in style on Saturday with an impressive 42-24 bonus point victory over Guernsey Raiders in the Channel Islands. 

17 points from fly half Max Titchener helped Henley to a resounding victory that sealed fourth place in National 2 East, and an excellent platform to build on ahead of the new season in September. 

However, it was the home side that started the brighter of the two teams and their tenacity was rewarded with just 3 minutes on the clock when hooker Tom Ceillam peeled off the back of a powerful driving maul to crash over for the games opening score. Tom Teasdale was wide with the conversion but the Raiders had set out their stall early on. 

Knowing that a bonus point win would be enough to fend off Tonbridge Juddians, Henley set to work and hit back 5 minutes later when captain Dave Manning powered his way over from close range to level the scores. Titchener excellently converted from out wide and Henley had the lead at 7-5. 

Henley looked sharp with ball in hand and were on the front foot again following a Will Crow interception that gave the Hawks excellent field position deep within the Raiders 22, but a knock on close to the line meant Guernsey could relieve the pressure. 

It was the Hawks who extended their lead further after 25 minutes when Will Benning crossed the whitewash following another excellent break from Crow to set up a Henley lineout on the Guernsey 22. The ever-present flanker managed to fend off two defenders to dot down under the sticks giving Titchener a simple conversion to make it 14-5. 

A superb Leo Webb break put the Hawks back within the Raiders 22 10 minutes later and Henley, who have been guilty of profligacy at times this season, were showing a far more ruthless streak when Rory Mason went over for their third try. Titchener converted again to extend the lead to 21-5.

However, just when Henley were threatening to pull away, back came the home side on the stroke of half time when a scintillating break from scrum half Dale Rutledge saw him carve his way through the Henley defence untouched. Teasdale converted and Guernsey had brought it back to 21-12 at the interval and all to play for. 

The home side started the second half in a similar vein to the first and scored a third try after 43 minutes when replacement hooker James Burger burrowed over from close range. Teasdale missed the conversion from near the touchline, but it was a one score game at 21-17. 

This setback seemed to spark the Hawks into life, and despite being down to 14 men with Crow picking up a yellow card, a quick tap penalty from Webb saw the livewire scrum half dodge his way past a couple of tackles to cross under the posts for an excellent individual score, and more importantly, the bonus point try for Henley. Titchener converted again and the Hawks were leading 28-17. 

Not to be outdone 10 minutes later, George Wood, in the slightly unfamiliar position of outside centre, bounced his way past some half-hearted tackles before putting on the after burners to score a quite brilliant fifth try for Henley. It was yet another fabulous score for Wood who has been in fantastic form of late. With Titchener adding the extras, Henley had a seemingly unassailable lead at 33-17. 

The game was put to bed on 71 minutes when Titchener glided through a gap in the home sides defence to score Henley's sixth of the afternoon. With the fly half converting his own score, Henley were running rampant at 42-17. 

To give the Raiders credit, they never gave up and secured a well-deserved try bonus point of their own on the stroke of full time when referee Alex Powdrell signalled a penalty try for the home side following a dominant scrum close to the line that was deemed to have been brought down illegally. 

It mattered not as Henley had secured a fine win, and a fitting way for departing players Tom Emery, Alex Bradley, Will Crow and Adam Hakimian to end their Henley careers on a high. Having earned a well deserved rest, Henley can look to the future with excitement and optimism ahead of the 2024/25 National 2 East season. 

Henley Hawks

15. Guy Rawsthorn, 14. Henry Gibbins, 13. George Wood, 12. Adam Hakimian, 11. Leo Webb, 10. Max Titchener, 9. Will Crow, 1. Dave Manning (c), 2. Tom Emery, 3. Rory Mason, 4. Marcus Lowe, 5. Sam Lunnon, 6. Will Benning, 7. Scott White, 8. Alex Bradley

Reps: 16. Morgan MacRae, 17. Kadeem Collins, 18. Morgan Poiner, 19. Christian Floyd, 20. Tom Cunningham

Match photo courtesy of Martin Gray from Guernsey Sports Photography. Match photos can be viewed here