Henley Vultures 17-12 Barnes Harrodians
On a perfect day for rugby last Saturday with blue sky and the sun shining through, Henley Vultures’ match against Barnes Harrodians in the Surrey Vets League saw a game of ebb and flow. Rising to the occasion of playing on the main Henley pitch, both teams fielded a full complement with substitutes to spare.
Receiving the ball from the Barnes kick-off saw Henley provide some positive and open play and looked to be in full control, with good ball from the pack being quickly fed by scrumhalf, Michael Molloy, to the backs. Barnes struggled to defend this early onslaught and were caught lying over the ball in the ruck, right in front of their posts. The consequent penalty gave fly-half, Andy Noyce, a simple shot at goal to notch up 3 points for Henley, after only six minutes into the game.
Barnes were clearly wrong-footed by this early dominance by Henley and conceded several penalties in a row. After a further penalty for a deliberate knock-on by Barnes, Henley’s replacement centre Chris Darke, following the early injury to Mike Watts, opened up the Barnes’ line. With an offload to Will Woodward, making a welcome return to Henley after some years, prop forward Jim Hadfield forged over to score Henley’s first try. Noyce’s conversion took Henley ahead to 10 points.
At this point Barnes were able to wrest back some control of the game and appeared the better drilled side but were held back by good defence and by Henley’s strong pack with a particularly solid front row, including Simon Matthews and Dan Foley in addition to the try scorer Hadfield. However, Barnes perseverance rewarded them with a converted try as half time approached which saw Henley leading 11 -7 at the break.
Henley started the second half with the same vigour as the first and Andy Noyce very quickly went over the Barnes line to score and then convert his own try to take Henley ahead to 17- 7. At this point, the game flowed back in Barnes’ favour and after a period where Henley seemed to lack shape in their defence, Barnes scored again but failed to convert the kick at 17 – 12.
The game was very much now on. Both sides upped their effort which was marked by an excellent Henley break by replacement scrumhalf Simon Shaw, with offloads to Matt Payne and then to newcomer Ali Hughes, who was to be brought down short of Barnes’ line. As the forwards battled to keep the ball, Henley’s Matt Payne received a yellow card for a questionable high tackle, leaving Henley without one of their strongest ball carriers.
With only 14 men on the pitch, Henley were able to hang on and with the final whistle, the Henley Vultures were relieved to come out as victors 17 point to 12.