Henley 10 Otley 29

By Oscar the Otter - February 24 2008
Henley 10 Otley 29 Otley made it eleven wins on the bounce in National Two with a bonus point victory over the Henley Hawks who provided determined opposition in their battle to stay up. Otley scored 5 tries in total, including a brace by 2nd row Howard Parr, and the defence was outstanding as the Hawks only managed to cross once for a late consolation try.

Boosted by the appointment of Jason Forster as their new Director of Rugby, Henley started the match impressively with a powerful 'pick & go' game around the fringes. This provided an early test of Otley's defence which stood firm although it did bring Henley an early penalty chance 35 metres out. Goalkicking has been one of Henley's pitfalls so far this season and it was of little surprise to the home crowd when centre Danny Wells pulled the penalty attempt wide.

Wells made amends 2 minutes later with a somewhat easier penalty to give his side a 3-0 lead.

With 10 minutes on the board, Otley had enjoyed little possession but were awarded a penalty on halfway from the re-start and Robin Kitching's kick to touch took play to within 5 metres of the Hawks tryline. Second row Richard Snowball took the line-out ball and Otley's pack rumbled towards the line. Henley thought they had defended the attacking ploy but No.8 Dan Hyde used all his experience to peel away down the short-side before diving in at the corner. Kitching landed a magnificent conversion from the touchline and Otley led 3-7.

After Otley had absorbed some more pressure from the hosts, the second try came from their second attacking move of the match. Good work from scrum-half Guy Easterby set Kitching free down the left and the wingman fended off 3 or 4 attempted tackles as he sprinted down the touchline before rounding next to the posts. Kitching converted his own try and Otley led 3-14 after 25 minutes.

Henley had their own opportunities to register points in the remainder of the first half but an excellent defensive effort from the Otley pack repelled the hosts advances from an attacking line-out. Strong defence from Easterby and Rob Whatmuff thwarted Henley's right winger Odejobi and then Kitching pulled off a superb last-ditch tackle on Henley left winger Tom Burns which forced a knock-on as he stretched for the line.

The scoreline stayed at 3-14 at half-time as Otley turned round to play with the advantage of the slight slope and breeze.

The match continued to be a war of attrition in the forward exchanges and Otley had much the upperhand. Otley introduced backrow try-machine Xavier Andre to proceedings after 55 minutes and his fresh legs immediately paid dividends as he muscled his way over the line after good work from Hyde who again excelled throughout. Kitching surprisingly missed a straightforward looking conversion but Otley had a commanding 3-19 lead after 60 minutes.

Otley then nearly provided their own undoing when they looked like scoring a further try of their own. A poor clearance kick was gathered by Parr who transferred the ball into midfield to hooker Ben Steele who's wide attempted pass to Kitching was intercepted by Henley right winger Odejobi. Fortunately Steele redeemed himself by making an important early tackle before the wingman could build up speed.

Otley scored the important fourth try after more good driving work from the forwards with engine-room duo Snowball & Parr and replacement prop Ryan Wederall making notable dents in the Hawks defence. Easterby was directing traffic intelligently at the base of the ruck and his pass found Parr on the right who dived in at the corner. Kitching was narrowly wide with the difficult conversion but Otley led 3-24.

With 10 minutes remaining Otley continued to apply the pressure with fly-half Ian Shuttleworth penning the opposition back and centres Rob Whatmuff and Jon Buchanan providing powerful options in midfield.

Otley's marauding pack was now man-handling their opponents who were marched 20 metres back from a line-out and Parr crashed over for his second try of the afternoon. Kitching was off target with the extras but it was of little concern as Otley had an unassailable 3-29 lead with 5 minutes left on the clock.

Keen to impress their new coaching regime, Henley continued to battle to the bitter end and were rewarded when replacement hooker Dinos Alexipoulos forced his way over on the stroke of full-time. Wells converted to make it 10-29 and the referee blew his whistle soon after.

Otley remain at the top of the table and now look ahead to next weekend's challenge at home to Nuneaton who are also involved in the battle to avoid relegation.

Henley: Simmons, Odejobi, Sweeney, Wells, Burns, Farndon, Gaunt (Grant 53), Le Chevalier, Wordley (Alexipoulos 53), Fuller (Hadfield 59), Winterbottom, Hurrell (capt), Hulland, Payne, Archer (King 40)

Otley: Dench, Parsons, Buchanan, Whatmuff, Kitching, Shuttleworth (capt) (McCormack 15-24), Easterby (McCormack 65), Turner (Wederall 55), Steele (Sayers 55), Fullman, Snowball, Parr, Williams, Bland (Andre 55), Hyde

Referee: N Higginson (RFU)

MATCH STATISTICS

Henley 10

Tries: Alexipoulos

Cons: Wells

Pens: Wells

Otley 29

Tries: Parr (2), Kitching, Hyde, Andre

Cons: Kitching (2)

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