Worthing Raiders 7-33 Henley Hawks 

By Nigel Dudding 

Henley returned from the south coast on Saturday with a well-earned bonus point win against a Worthing side that had improved dramatically since the encounter back in October. In the end, Henley produced some excellent rugby at times without really hitting peak form.

With the news also coming through from Taunton that they had beaten league leaders, Tonbridge Juddians, it meant that Henley gained top spot in National 2 South at the end of the day for the first time this season.

The game started brightly for the Hawks as some early Worthing pressure was repelled, and telling break from Will Janes, playing his first game of the season, was well supported by Ewan Fenley. In the ensuing attacking phases, the ever present David Hyde crashed over for one of his trademark tries. The conversion from Ben Bolster was successful and Henley were up and running. Almost immediately, Henley were making several line breaks yet the final phase or pass wasn’t quiet sticking and Worthing were able to clear their lines.

However, all this pressure told as multiple penalties were conceded by the hosts and this allowed Henley to kick into the corner and launch a driving maul try for Tom Emery which was again converted by Bolster.

At this stage it looked as if Henley would really kick on and maybe secure the bonus point before half time. In the end, they just simmered for the rest of the half and a rare foray into the Henley 22 saw a clever chip kick from the fly Half Matt McLean bounce kindly in the Henley in goal area for centre Kieran Leeming to score, with the conversion was a formality. Henley had one further chance to score just before half time but miss communication allowed Worthing to clear their lines safely into touch.

It was crucial that Henley got on the scoreboard first in the second period, as as so often this year they came out of the blocks at full tilt. Some penetrative runs from Samir Kharbouch and Xav Andre in the midfield were opening up gaps in the defence. This created attacking opportunities and from one such dominant scrum, Sam Lunnon crashed over for his thirteenth try of the season. Once again Ben Bolster was on hand to increase the score to 21 – 7 .

Almost immediately from the kick off Henley were awarded a penalty and a tap and go from Ewan Fenley produced the try of the afternoon as deft hands from Marcus Lowe sent George Griffiths in for the bonus point score. This time sadly Ben Bolster was off target.

It was not long after that Henley wrapped the game up, as Rory Mason crashed over from a series of drives to make the score 33 -7. Henley were also able to use their bench to full effect with George Probyn making his debut at loose head and, Jimmy Wright gaining some valuable experience on the flank.

The game then ebbed and flowed from one end of the field to the other but a resolute Henley defence was not going to allow the normally high scoring Worthing side over for a second try.  They were then able to close out the game effectively.

All in all, a very pleasing result against a side that had rediscovered some form of late. The Hawks will know that a sterner test will arrive this Saturday, with the trip to fellow promotion-chasers, Redruth.

Henley: Janes, Norville, Andre, Kharbouch, Griffiths, Bolster, Fenley, Primett, Emery, Mason, Hyde, Albon, Lunnon, Lowe, Bradley.  Subs All used: White, Wright, Probyn, Robinson, Hughes.

Match photos are courtesy of Warwick Baker;