BIG MATCH PREVIEW - Henley
BIG MATCH PREVIEW by PETER WOODROOFE
Henley Hawks v Moseley, National League 2, Dry Leas, Henley, Saturday, 18 March, 3.00pm
A match to approach with caution. In the match at Billesley last November, contrary to the trend at some of Moseley’s matches at Billesley this season, the visitors controlled the first half and only the resilience of the Moseley defence restricted Henley to a 10-0 lead.
MITCH BURTON, on loan from Bath, kicked a penalty and converted a try by fly-half BARRY REEVES, who charged down a kick out of defence and won the race to the touchdown.
Moseley came out psyched up for the second half and OLLIE THOMAS kicked three penalties in the first 10 minutes. Thomas and Burton swapped penalties, but on the half-hour, Moseley went into the lead when DEAN BICK was smuggled over for what was his customary try. Thomas converted from the touchline.
From a breakaway, Burton levelled the score with a penalty – then came the moment of decision. Moseley were awarded yet another penalty on the half-way line. Captain GARETH TAYLOR AND Thomas decided to go for it and Thomas’s sweetly struck kicked cleared the bar with distance to spare. 22-19. The match was as close as that!
After a shaky start to the season, Henley, who had been relegated from National 1, had won four of their next five games before playing Moseley. By Christmas, they had won five and lost seven and were lying 10th, with only six points separating the clubs between 5th and 10th.
Since then, they have been affected by a spate of injuries, most notably to MITCH BURTON, CHRIS SIMMONS and BARRY REEVES, as well as losing their captain, flanker JEFF ATKINSON who had returned to Australia and hooker CHRIS HALL, who received a six week ban. They proceeded to lose a straight five games before winning 22-20 at Barking and defeating Orrell 26-20 at Dry Leas.
Newcomers this season include winger CHRIS SIMMINS from Newbury, who, in spite of being out with a thumb injury, is their leading try scorer with nine, and MITCH BURTON on loan from Bath, who is their leading points scorer with 114pts.
Winger STUART ROBERTS and prop JAMES HADFIELD have joined from Bracknell and centres PAUL DUNKLEY and MATT BRITTON have moved to Henley from Saracens and Exeter respectively.
Since Christmas, South African winger CHASKA LOUBERS has joined from Marlow and RORY TEAGUE who, on loan from Bristol, has moved to the Hawks after a short spell at Stourbridge. He is a drop goal expert.
The long-serving lock JAMES WINTERBOTTOM, over 150 League appearances, has taken over as captain. He was selected for the England Counties side against France Amateurs at Beaune last weekend.
Another long-serving player is prop ROWAN FULLER, who was formerly at Moseley and joined Henley Hawks in 1997. Another former Moseley player, MATT JONES, was their leading points scorer in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, scoring 407 over the two seasons. Fly-half BARRY REEVES holds the career record for most League points at Henley, 732 points from 2001 to date.
Henley’s coach is JON LAMBDEN, who has had experience with Wasps and Saracens and has replaced NIGEL DUDDING this season.
Soon after Henley has commenced League rugby CLIVE WOODWARD, the former England World Cup winning coach and now involved in soccer, was appointed coach in 1990 and piloted Henley from south West 2 to National Division 5 South in 1993-4, two promotions, when Nigel Dudding took over.
Moseley and Henley first met each other in League rugby in 1999-2000, when Henley did the double, winning 29-18 at their home ground, dry Leas, and 25-19 at Bournbrook.
In the following season, Moseley won 16-12, but Henley won the return 20-12. Honours were even in 2001-2, with Moseley winning 29-24 and Henley 26-21 on each other’s ground. It was then that Henley were relegated. They got back into National 1 in 2003-4, but Moseley had dropped into National 2. So, up to this season, the two clubs had met each other six times, Henley winning four and Moseley two, one of them at Dry Leas,
This season, as mentioned, Moseley won 22-19 at Billesley, making the points difference between the two clubs over seven games 18 points in favour of the Hawks.
A Powergen Cup game between the two clubs last season produced another close game, Moseley winning 24-20 at Bournbrook in Round 3.
As always, Mosley will need to be focused from the start against Henley and demonstrate the application they applied in the second half in the hard-fought 27-13 win against Redruth a fortnight ago.
For their part, Henley played a rearranged fixture away to Halifax last weekend, where they lost 41 – 23. It leaves them in 10th place on 38pts, just three points above the third relegation spot, occupied at present by Stourbridge on 35pts. They will be keen to put a bit more space between themselves and the drop. Moseley take note!
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