Henley Hawks 51 pts Tyndale 17 pts
The Hawks started the season playing with the flair that earned them promotion to National 1 and in scoring seven tries, six by their backs, were setting the pace for another high scoring season.
They started the game by keeping the ball in hand and put the Tyndale defence under such pressure that they conceded three penalties for off side approaches by their backs the first of which was converted by James Comben after just three minutes.
The Hawks were perhaps over eager to score and their handling became inaccurate and showing over confidence were shocked to concede a try just seven minutes into the game when on half-way Tyndale fly-half Gavin Beasley spotted a gape on the blindside and proceeded to give centre Ben Frankland a scoring pass and then converted the try from under the posts to give his side a 7-3 lead.
Although Comben converted two penalties from 25 metres to restore the Hawks lead at 9-7 this was short lived because Beasley did likewise with a goal from 30 metres when the Hawks were penalised for preventing release of the ball in a ruck.
The Hawks were failing to profit from their superiority out side the scrum and their forwards began to take charge of proceedings led in particular by No.8, Robbie Stapley, a last minute replacement for the injured Matt Payne. Showing no handicap from his own recent injury, in typical style he began to break tackles and was supported with aggressive running by Josh McNally, Will Woodward and Dave Clements. This paid dividends when after 20 minutes the ball was fed to the flying Xavier Andre on the right wing who although held up 15 metres from the line skipper Martin Nutt was able fling him self over for an unconverted try. 14-10 became 17-10 when once again Tyndale were penalised and lock Andy Buist was given a yellow card.
The Hawks failed to take advantage of the numerical superiority until the 40th minute when some close passing just short of the Tyndale line bore its reward with a Comben side step over the line to make the score 22-10 and his personal tally 17 points. Unfortunately he tweaked a hamstring in the process and could not resume in the second half.
Before the break Tyndale, now at full strength pressed to score and in a ruck close to the Hawks line their No 6 Woodward illegally prevented the release of the ball and was sent to the sin bin. The visitors took advantage of this to force the restored Buist over the line for a try converted by Beasley to make the half-time score 22-17.
The Hawks therefore started the second half a man short and with a reconstituted back line in the absence of Comben. They quickly brushed aside such handicaps by scoring two tries in four minutes . First of all Tom Allen, at fly-half, put in a typical dancing run to weave through a bewildered Tyndale defence to touch down under the posts for full back Liam O’Neill to convert to make the score 29-17. Then an attack on the right was stopped by the visitors illegally. Immediately a quick thinking scrum-half Luke Carter took a tapped penalty which started the best handling movement of the game as the Hawks moved the ball from right to left with accurate swift passing to give the strong running Alan Awcroft the opportunity to score a debut for the Hawks.
With the score at 34-17 there was now a pause in the Hawks scoring although for the third time in the game lock McNally backing up breaks by Robbie Stapley, was hauled down a few metres form the line after bursts of about 35 metres..
However normal scoring activity was resumed when Allen again mesmerised the Tyndale cover to score against the posts for Danny Wells (a replacement centre at half-time) to convert. At 41-17 the Hawks were now easing away against a tiring Tyndale particularly in the scrums where Hawks’ tight head Dave Manning was taking advantage of the new scrummaging laws to put the visitors in retreat . With good ball the Hawks backs were enjoying space and in particular Danny Wells who was on fire with his pacy running and got his reward in the 70th minute when he scored having destroyed a tackle with a devastating hand-off.
The Hawks however made the winning score 51 -17 when they again destroyed a Tyndale scrum on five metres and the alert replacement flanker, Tommy Haynes, was able to stretch over to touch down a loose ball .
A good crowd of 625 enjoyed a game of fast open rugby and voted Robbie Stapley man of the match.
Tries: Nutt (1).Comben (1) Allen (2) Awcock (1), Wells (1), Haynes (1)
Penalties: Comben (4)
Conversions: O’Neill (1), Wells(1)
Tries: Frankland,B. (1), Buist (1)
Penalties: Beasley Gavin (1)
Conversions: Beasley (2)
15. Liam O’Neill (Mark Bruce 58), 14. Xavier Andre, 13. Martin Nutt (Capt.), 12. Tom Allen,11. Alan Awcock, 10. James Comben (Danny Wells 40) 9. Luke Carter, 1. Dai Maddocks, 2. Alex Penny (Ed Church 66-79), 3. Dave Manning, 4. David Clements, 5. Josh McNally (Tommy Haynes 71), 6. Will Woodward, 7. Liam Dwyer, 8. Robbie Stapley (Ryan Long 62)