Henley Hawks 68, Taunton 15
AN EMPHATIC win came at a huge cost for Henley Hawks, who closed the gap on National 2 South leaders Worthing to seven points.
Henley scored ten tries, but lost flankers Ryan Newman (knee) and Ben Ashmore (shoulder), full back Jevon Marsh (elbow) and prop Hugo Milford-Scott (hip) to serious injuries.
Taunton took the lead with a third-minute penalty from full back Gary Kingdom, but Henley responded immediately.
Some slick passing released right wing Jonah Holmes, who cut through at pace, fly half Will Robinson converting.
Hawks shot themselves in the foot when centre Danny Wells’s clearance was charged down by flanker Jacob Childs, who collected the ball and dived over for 8-7.
Henley toiled their way back and were rewarded on 18 minutes when lock James Winterbottom was driven over from a maul, Robinson converting. Robinson’s long pass allowed left wing Richard Briggs space to squeeze over in the corner and the fly half converted via a post for 21-8.
Openside Newman was stretchered off with what was feared to be an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the build-up to the try.
Soon after the restart, Marsh suffered an excruciatingly painful disclocated elbow.
This did not alter Henley’s focus and they managed a fourth try on 36 minutes after pushing Taunton off their own scrum ball – No 8 Robbie Stapley getting the touchdown and Robinson converting.
Marsh’s replacement, regular skipper Tom Allen, showed great alertness to collect a loose ball and saunter through a static Taunton defence.
Robinson converted this and a second try from Stapley, who was driven over from a lineout, to make it 42-8 at half-time.
Henley looked sluggish after the break, but Taunton could not make their pressure count.
Instead, Hawks scored from their first real attack, with lock Josh McNally barging over after Stapley had been stopped short.
Wells just denied Taunton wing Aron Struminski in a foot race, but the visitors’ persistence paid off with hooker-turned-flanker Jon Gatford forcing his way over on 61 minutes, Kingdom converting.
Ashmore went off with a dislocated shoulder and Milford-Scott a hip flexor problem.
Robinson bagged a deserved try on 76 minutes when he latched on to scrum half Luke Carter’s precise pass and converted the score himself.
Allen added his second score in a similar manner to his first, scooping up the loose ball after centre Martin Nutt’s off-load was blocked.
Robinson converted this and a last-gasp score from rapid replacement Liam O’Neill.
Henley Hawks: Marsh (Allen 30), Holmes, Nutt (capt), Wells, Briggs, Robinson, Carter, Milford-Scott (Manning 66), Dwyer (O’Neill 77), Manning (Hadfield 54), Winterbottom, McNally, Ashmore (Penny 62), Newman (Woodward 28), Stapley. Referee: M Marsden (RFU).