Bees far from easy prey for Hawks
By Richard Smith
Valiant defeat but failure to secure bonus points could cost the Bees dear
Sometimes in life you just don’t get what you deserve. This is a lesson that the Bees have been reminded of on many occasions this season in National League 2 South, particularly so with their 31-22 defeat at Henley Hawks.
Given their respective league positions coming into the game, home supporters would have been forgiven for expecting a regulation bonus point victory at Dry Leas. That’s what their team ended up delivering, but from a visitors’ perspective it was a score line that didn’t tell the full story of 80 minutes of rugby played on a pleasant early spring afternoon in the Thames Valley.
Both sides tested each other out in the early exchanges and a full 19 minutes had elapsed before the Hawks broke the deadlock with a score for centre Dan Barnes, claiming an interception try which Ben Bolster converted.
The Bees proved themselves to be well organised though, with Umraan Jadwat in particular causing the Hawks problems. The visitors pegged the score back to 7-3 with a Jolly penalty, from which Henley full back George Griffiths was awarded a yellow card.
With a man advantage, the Bees took the lead with a fine try for Harry O’Brien, after a nice offload from Nathan Tilsley. With Jolly safely slotting the conversion, it was clear that the Bees weren’t just there to take the Home Counties air.
With half time looming, the Hawks won a penalty and elected to kick to the corner. From the line out, Tom Hall finished off an effective driving maul to give his side a 12-10 lead at the break. Significantly, the Bees went in a man down, with Oscar Heath sin binned on the stroke of half time for a trip tackle.
The home side appeared galavanized after the break and immediately stretched their lead with a try for skipper, Sam Lunnon. Just as it looked as though the Hawks would pull away and seal the game, the visitors came back. The Bees scrum was beginning to dominate and after taking a strike against the head, they levelled the score when Nathan Tilsley forced his way over for a try, which Jolly converted to bring the scores level at 17-17.
The Bees’ scrum half missed a penalty chance to regain the lead and despite some intense pressure, it was the Hawk’s open side flanker Tom Emery who again led the break out for the men in gold.
Henley eventually got themselves back into Bees territory and turned down a couple of penalty kicks at goal in favour of an attacking line out. With the Bees defending strongly, a well-controlled maul by Dave Manning allowed the Hawks some space and a cross kick from Barnes was collected by Griffiths who beat the defence to score. Bolster converted from the touchline.
Much to their credit, the Bees responded immediately with a short side move involving Matt Spink, with Oscar Heath running round under the posts to score. Jolly missed a relatively straight forward conversion that would have levelled the scores.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, the Hawks eventually found their rhythm and settled the outcome of the game with a well worked try from Liam O’Neill, after some good handling between Bolster and Griffiths. The fly half converted to give a nine point victory to the Hawks and leave the Bees with nothing to show for their afternoon’s work.
With Barnes beating Worthing 28-26 and Guernsey getting the better of Old Redcliffians at home 24-17, the Bees are now 9 points adrift of safety.
They currently sit third from bottom in the league table on 38 points, with Dings (47 points) and Old Redcliffians (48 points) immediately above them.
With just five games left in the campaign, every game – including this Saturday’s fixture against Old Albanian - will be significant in the relegation battle.
Bees v Henley Hawks: 1. JP Nel, 2. Zane Raimondi, 3. Nick Bingham, 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Matt Spink, 6. Keenan Cooper, 7. Ashley Scriven, 8. Umraan Jadwat, 9. Jack Jolly © (2c, 2P), 10. Harry O’Brien (T), 11 Matt Dight, 12. Nathan Tilsley(T), 13. Dan Kelly, 14. Oscar Heath (T, YC), 15, Corey Venus.
Replacements: 16. Joe Foreman, 17. Stewart Pearl, 18. Marcus Brown, 19. Taraiasi Wara, 20. Adam Nunney.
Referee:- James Milliner-Woodcock