HENLEY Hawks had to give best to fourth-placed Esher at Dry Leas on Saturday, going down to a 13-8 defeat in National League 1.
There was little to choose between these sides in wet and windy conditons, and Hawks had the consolation of taking a bonus point from their final game of the year.
Both sides scored a try, but it was the place kicking of full back Luke Daniels that proved the difference.
He converted the try and slotted two straight-forward penalties in the swirling wind.
James Comben and Daniels exchanged penalties in the first 15 minutes of the first half, which featured some incisive running by Tom Allen and new full back Ed Yarnton, who made an impressive debut.
Henley’s attacks throughout the game were often thwarted by handling mistakes as they attempted long passes from midfield to wings in the windy conditions.
In contrast, Esher’s much shorter distribution based on thrusts by their back-row forwards produced fewer errors.
This formula paid off midway through the first half half when No 8 Michael McFarlane burst through to score close to the posts, Daniels’s conversion making it 10-3.
Henley pulled it back to 10-8 after a strong drive by the pack gave prop Alex Penny the chance to touch down close to the posts.
Hawks were always in with a chance in the second half, with their back row of Robbie Stapley, Luke Allen and Ryan Long to the fore. Their best chance came when when a tapped penalty by Luke Carter was taken on by the back row deep into the Esher 22, where Comben was halted close to the line.
Esher stretched their lead with a Daniels penalty and almost denied Hawks a bonus point when wing Spencer Sutherland lost control of the ball attempting to cross for a try.
This would have been rough justice on a Henley side who lost two further players, Long and Xavier Andre, to injuries