Reading 2's 29-34 Henley Vikings
By David Lewis
For Henley 3’s, the Vikings, this re-scheduled game from earlier in the month, which had been victim to waterlogged pitches at Reading, presented the opportunity to continue to challenge for the top position in their league. With Reading lying four positions below them, and the Vikings having lost only one game to the league leaders, Amersham & Chiltern it should have been an easier day at the office; but it was not to be.
Reading started strongly and kept Henley pinned down in their half from the kick off. Perhaps, being caught somewhat off-guard, Henley found themselves having to defend and were subject to continuing penalties for being offside and infringing in the breakdown. This resulted in Toby Stevens, taking a team penalty and a yellow card.
With fourteen players on the pitch, Henley, were struggling but their strong defence held and even with Stevens still in the bin, Ollie Portch was able to take advantage with a well worked try, converted by Toby Howe. It was only a few minutes before the unfortunate Sam Grindey, on whom Henley rely on for several tries per game, was injured and had to depart the field.
With only thirteen players on the field, Henley held up well, but were overcome by Reading who scored their own converted try. With level scores, Stevens was back on but front row forward, Henley’s Rob Tang was also forced to depart with injury. At this point the game was obliged to go to uncontested scrums which meant that Henley, as the guilty party, had to drop a player. Henley were forced to play on for the rest of the match with only fourteen players.
As half time approached, it was Portch again who scored for Henley, with the kick going awry and, then just before the whistle, Reading were awarded yet another penalty and took the half time score to 10 points to 12 in Henley’s favour.
As the second half began, Henley were quick off the mark and it was fly half, Toby Howe, who astutely intercepted a Reading pass in Henley’s half and ran the length of the pitch for a well-deserved personal try. As Howe understandably recovered his breath, scrum half David Kelly stepped up for the kick, but it went wide.
Henley were now beginning to take control, albeit with their fourteen players. Next up to score for Henley was Sam Quelch after an immense effort by Henley to get into Reading’s half. The kick went wide but Henley were now forging ahead.
It was another quarter of an hour before Henley captain, Charlie Thomas, scored in a similar fashion to Quelch by Henley pushing Reading over their own line and touching down. Howe’s conversion continued to widen the score gap in Henley’s favour.
One new Henley player was a positive addition to the team with Anthony Pettett and also Ruari van Raalte, making a welcome return to Henley after several years away. It was van Raalte, who was next to score an unconverted try with yet another intercepted pass.
At 17 points to 34 in Henley’s favour it looked like game over, but Reading cheered on by the home crowd were not finished. With Henley’s fourteen men suffering from have to put in significant defensive work throughout the match and with no replacements.
Reading were able to score again twice in the last 10 minutes bringing the closing score to 29 points to 34 with Henley taking the prize. It was close for Henley but by hanging on they remain second in the league and face Aldermaston at home next week.