Worthing Raiders 23-29 Henley Hawks
By Alistair Beynon
19 points off the trusty boot of Max Titchener was the catalyst for Henley Hawks to secure an excellent 29-23 triumph over old rivals, Worthing Raiders at Roundstone Lane on Saturday.
The Hawks got off to a flying start when fullback, George Wood picked up a loose ball in his own half, dodged his way past several errant tackles before offloading to Lailand Gordon to cross under the sticks for an excellent score. With Titchener adding the extras, it was 7-0 after just a couple of minutes on the clock.
Henley were back on the offensive shortly afterwards and a penalty within the Worthing 22 gave Titchener a chance to extend the lead, however he was narrowly wide with his attempt.
This minor setback didn't derail the Hawks ambitions, and probing attacks from Adam Hakimian and Gordon saw Henley back deep within the Raiders half. A 5-metre scrum penalty gave Titchener the opportunity to redeem himself, and he calmly slotted the kick to extend the Hawks lead to 10-0.
With 15 minutes on the clock, it was all one way traffic with Henley having had all the possession and territory. However, against the run of play, the home side hit back with a try of their own. A powerful driving maul was well finished by Will Gearing-Grief out wide to put the Raiders on the board. However, the conversion was just wide.
Henley had further opportunities to pull further ahead, but poor discipline in the Worthing 22 gave the home side the opportunity to clear their lines. Back came the Hawks, who were looking precise in attack, but an excellent covering tackle saw Leo Webb bundled into touch with the try line beckoning.
The stoic defensive effort stirred the home side, and they were soon back in the ascendency. An attack from deep gave Worthing a two-on-one overlap on the blindside which saw Harry Forrest coast in for the home sides second try of the game. Josh Bellamy excellently converted from out wide and Worthing somehow went in at the break with a 12-10 advantage.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first with Henley back on the attack. And within a minute of the re-start, Titchener had an opportunity to put the Hawks back in front following the Raiders failed attempt to gather the ball from the re-start saw them penalised for holding on. He made no mistake and Henley went ahead 13-12.
However, the lead was very short lived as back came Worthing who were awarded a penalty of their own. Bellamy converted it to take the score back in favour of the home side at 15-13.
Worthing were playing with much more confidence now and were soon back on the attack. Raiders scrum half, Cam Dobinson put up a high ball which Henley failed to collect, and the ball fell gleefully into the hands of Harrison Sims who sprinted in for the Raiders third try of the afternoon. Luckily for Henley, Bellamy's conversion attempt came back of the crossbar leaving it a one score game at 20-13.
However, back came Henley who were awarded another penalty in kickable range for Titchener's trusty boot, and he duly obliged to bring the score back to 20-16 with 30 minutes to play.
Henley's inability to claim the re-start gave Worthing front foot ball, and Bellamy was able to extend the lead back to 7 points at 23-16 following further ill-discipline from the away side.
The Hawks refused to lie down, and an excellent break by Will Benning on half way eventually saw the ball spun wide to Sam Lunnon to crash over for the Hawks second try of the game with 20 minutes remaining. Titchener's excellent conversion levelled the scores at 23-23, making it a nervy last quarter for the Henley faithful.
In what was proving a real end-to-end contest now, Worthing were starting to dominate up front giving them excellent territory to work with. However, Henley were defending with real purpose nullifying every attack thrown at them.
A yellow card to Wood with 15 minutes remaining gave Worthing further opportunities to pull ahead, but Henley continued to thwart the home side time and again.
A well-earned penalty to relieve the pressure saw Titchener clear to near half way, and a fantastic break from Webb saw Henley into the Worthing 22. Another penalty gave the Hawks an opportunity to re-take the lead, and this they did when Titchener's confidently struck kick took Henley in front, 26-23.
A further penalty a few minutes later gave Henley a 6-point cushion at 29-23, but with just minutes left on the clock, Worthing had an opportunity to take the points with the ball deep within the Hawks 22.
Throwing the kitchen sink at Henley, Worthing just couldn't find a way past the heroic Hawks defence. And when Henley won a penalty with just seconds remaining, Titchener cleared to touch near their own 22. From the resulting lineout, Tom Vooght booted the ball out of play to signal the end of an enthralling contest that could've gone either way.
Henley now play the league's top two in the form of Dorking at Dry Leas next Saturday, November 18th, followed by a trip to Barnes the week after.
15. Wood, 14. Gordon, 13. McCormick, 12. Hakimian, 11. Webb, 10. Titchener, 9. Crow, 1. Collins, 2. Emery, 3. Mason, 4. Lowe, 5. Lunnon, 6. Benning, 7. White, 8. Vooght
Replacements: 16. Totic, 17. Frostick, 18. Taylor, 19. Strugar, 20. Ellaboudy
Match photos courtesy of Colin Coulson