Henley II 19 Vikings 80
Old Redingensians 29 Saxons 27 - but Saxons secure the try bonus point needed to win the League!
Second placed Richmond and fourth placed Henley Hawks fought out a nail biting draw at Dry Leas, each side earning two points. This leaves Richmond four points behind Old Albanians and five points ahead of Worthing with two games to go. With the latter two teams playing each other next weekend, every additional point earned is invaluable.
Richmond showed one change from the previous week, Ali Lyon replacing the unavailable Kyle Sinckler. There were seven changes from the side who had lost to Henley at the Athletic Ground in December.
Richmond got off to the best possible start. The kick off appeared to be slightly over-hit but Henley delayed too long with their clearance, which was well charged down by the huge George Merrick. Will Browne blasted forward to gain more valuable yards and his side were now deep in the opposition 22. Retaining the ball with admirable composure, Richmond then went through a number of phases, gradually drawing in the Henley defence. Finally the ball was moved through swift hands to the right where Tom Platt fed a neat scoring pass to Tom Chesters for an excellent opening try. Platt added a high quality touchline conversion and his side were 0-7 ahead after just two minutes.
Richmond could have extended their lead three minutes later, when livewire Browne spectacularly caught a Luke Cousins up and under to initiate an attack. Winger Chesters accelerated clear down the touchline before being caught by the cover on the 22. Frustratingly the Richmond support was just too slow and the opportunity was lost when referee Philip Davies pinged Richmond for holding on, the first of too many penalties, which provided Henley with their own momentum.
After eleven minutes, the Hawks opened their scoring. Countering from a Richmond kick, fly half James Comben chipped well into space and one of the officials appeared to spot a block, awarding Comben the chance to strike his first penalty in a faultless kicking display. Buoyed by this, Henley now set up their first spell of continuous pressure, moving the ball well and using their back row, with Matt Payne prominent, in close support of their backs. Held out at the corner flag, the home side recycled well and winger Simon Perry ran a lovely angle to take a scissors pass and dive over in the corner. Comben added a vital conversion to put the home side into a 10-7 lead.
Whilst Henley now looked more confident, Richmond were dominant at the line out, their excellent locks Will Warden and Merrick stealing opposition ball at will, and the forwards were also edging the few scrums. As a result, the visitors had the best chances and after good work from the outstanding Jason Phipps, Barney Pascall stormed into the Henley 22 to set up a great position on the half hour. Unfortunately the support was again just too slow and Henley escaped.
Nevertheless, two Tom Platt penalties earned Richmond the half time lead. First the tight forwards won a penalty as the Henley scrum buckled under pressure and then, in the 40th minute, Tom Gregory made a good break, well taken on by Platt, and Henley were penalised for slowing the ball as the Richmond pack followed up.
Henley made a front row change at half time and for a while this seemed to stabilise their set piece possession. From a scrum, the dangerous Tom Allen broke on the blind side, before being comprehensively dumped by the defence but, in the process, Richmond were adjudged to have gone off their feet and Comben levelled the scores after six minutes of the half. Four minutes later, kicker Platt retrieved the lead when Henley, in turn, were penalised at the breakdown.
For the next quarter of an hour, nearly all the play was in the Henley half. An attack down the left came close, denied only by a final knock on, but Henley countered with another penalty, against the run of play, the offence once again being at the breakdown. The visitors now introduced a number of substitutes and the pacey Harison Edwards immediately made impact. The best chance of the half ensued when Edwards and Chris Davies combined well, gaining thirty metres to set up position deep in the 22. With a big overlap on the right, a score seemed certain but the outside pass was ignored and Mr Davies blew a long blast of the whistle, as Henley came offside, five metres out, denying quick ball from the tackle. Instead of the expected individual yellow card, the Henley skipper was summoned for a lengthy team warning With the defence now back in position, Richmond’s attacking options were limited and, almost inevitably, Platt’s penalty kick then curled inches wide.
Galvanised by their escape, Henley kicked deep and another penalty gave them the chance to set up a last minute line out within striking distance of the try line. Securing rare possession, the Hawks forwards mauled forward before collapsing just short of the corner. With Richmond hearts in mouths, Timmy Walford was yellow carded and Henley confidently opted for another line out. However the visitors held their nerve and their discipline and, when the reliable Ali Lyon was summoned back for the last scrum, five metres out, the seven forwards conceded nothing and a draw was the final and not unfair score.
Director of Rugby Steve Hill commented: ‘We knew this was going to be a very difficult encounter and so it proved. I was immensely pleased with how our pack went in the tight and how we held our nerve and discipline at the end of the game. We certainly created the most chances and but for the final pass on a couple of occasions we would have secured the win. This type of game will stand us in good stead for the two remaining league matches which ultimately will decide our season. I have every confidence in our players to secure the two required victories’
Penalties: Platt (3)
Team: T.Platt, W.Browne, T.Gregory, B.Pascall, T.Chesters(D.Peters), L.Cousins, P.Nash (T.Drewe), A.Lyon(T.DeBuf)), J.Phipps (D.Burr), T.Walford, W.Warden, G.Merrick, T.George (H.Edwards), C.Davies, J.Thompson.