Hawks second best to Lions as injuries take their toll

HENLEY HAWKS was well beaten by a Leicester Lions side who produced a direct and energetic running display last Saturday.

The hosts, unbeaten at home all season, have now extended their unbeaten streak in all games to seven. The match was played on a very hard surface and for Henley it seemed to make their injury crisis worse.

The game got off to a rocky start as Henley lost skipper Jake Albon after just five minutes to a calf injury, leading to a hasty reshuffle in the field, with Marcus Lowe playing in an unusual role in the second tier . It seemed to shake Henley’s confidence and they conceded a try wide as the Leicester winger rolled hard for the corner.

This seemed to spur Henley into action and a number of promising attacks were held up on the line where Leicester were able to relieve the pressure thanks to Henley’s errors. Some penetrating runs from Tom Hall and Alex Bradley were turned away and the breakdown zone was dominated by Leicester.

It wasn’t long before the constant threat from the Leicester fly-half paid off as a well-constructed try was scored in the 20th minute which was not converted.

There followed a period of stalemate as both teams tried to create openings, but resolute defenses on both sides ensured a great battle in midfield. However, it was still the hosts who looked the most dangerous with the ball in hand and they reacted quicker to breakdowns.

Further injuries hampered the Henley side and young student Finn Glass had to replace Rory Mason in the half-time scrum. Additionally, center Terence Barbarinsa picked up an ankle blow that reduced his game and was replaced by Sam Allen. Unfortunately, Allen took a bad hit to the head as he recovered a high ball and had to be substituted midway through the second half.

All those injuries meant Henley still had their backs to the wall in the second half and Leicester were able to add three more tries to the score line as Henley faded.

With 20 minutes remaining, Henley got the breakthrough he deserved as a series of drives and a fast recycle ball saw the dynamic Samson Adejimi crash into the corner. Guy Rawsthorn failed to convert from the touchline.

Henley never gave up and fought to the end despite several players landing other blows. From such a break on the halfway line, Alex Harmes showed a real change of pace to outsmart the opposition and score under the posts to close the gap a bit.

It was always going to be a tough task against a very capable and well-drilled Leicester side who have found a rich vein of form lately and thus became the first team to do the double over Henley this season.

The goal now is to end the season in style and to be able to take a well-deserved break after a difficult season. Most encouraging is that the spirit has never weakened and the effort and desire remain high.

Henley Hawks: Rawsthorn, Norvill, Harmes, Barbarinsa, Davies, Panday, Gilbey, Mason, Emery, Probyn, Lunnon, Albon, Lowe, Bradley, Bordill. Replacements: Glass, Adejimi, White, Allen, Hall.

Charles P. Patton