Henley 41 North Walsham Vikings 14
The Vikings returned from Oxfordshire still seeking their first league points of the season. 19 – 7 down at the break after a half of dogged defence in which they had been starved of possession, they were swept aside in the first 15 minutes of the second half as Henley ran in three tries.
On a dry clear day the Vikings were on the defensive from the start, conceding three penalties in their 22 in the first four minutes before Scott White was driven over from a lineout, Max Titchener converting. Henley were dominant, the Vikings rarely going forward: they were struggling at the set pieces, the lineout in particular, and conceding penalties in all areas of the game. On the few occasions they broke out, a lost lineout or penalty immediately put them back on the defensive. In the sixteenth minute, soon after they had twice been held up over line, Henley got their second converted try, a carbon copy of the first, Istok Totic the scorer.
It continued to be all Henley but a mixture of resolute defence, with the back row of Jobe Brooks, Charlie Fethney and Leo Langbridge particularly prominent, and the host’s imprecision, meant territory and possession didn’t become points. Ten minutes before halftime Fethney, one of the most experienced players in their young squad, was forced off injured. Soon after it became 19 – 0: the Vikings won their own lineout 30 metres out only for the ball to go lose and Sam Lunnon to stride over. Then, with the last play of the half and with two in the sinbin the Vikings, suddenly scored. A quick tap on halfway by the effervescent Connor Dudley gave Brooks the opportunity for a storming 35 metre run, there were players in support and Ethan Holmwood piled over, Ross Magnus converting.
The second half was very different to the first, save the points scored were almost identical. The Vikings scrum improved and they occasionally put together some neat attacking moves but they were short lived with runners isolated or the passing inaccurate. Meanwhile Henley, a big pacey side, upped their game playing much more precisely than in the first.
Tries for Harrison Hall, Lunnon and Tom Emery in the 42nd, 44th and 55th minutes, two of them converted, soon put the game beyond the Vikings reach. Before the third of those though came a memorable try from Vikings debutant Tawanda Kandenwa. They won clean ball from a scrum in their 22, quick hands took the ball to the winger who evaded four would be tacklers as he raced 70 metres to the line.
Thereafter the visitors never really looked like scoring again. Lacons Brewery Man of the Match Dudley, along with Brooks and Leo Langbridge, made good ground in one attack, Harry Langbridge nearly got through but good positions were soon lost. They looked to have decimated a Henley scrum 20 metres from the host’s line only to be penalised, whilst possession was lost after a five metre tapped penalty. Meantime Henley regularly threatened, but some determined defence kept them at bay apart from White getting his second with 15 minutes left.
“It’s a steep learning curve for this young side,” said Niall Lear. “The way the scrum improved after half time was a big positive, a great collective effort, and we were better defensively than last week. Nevertheless, despite everyone giving their all we struggled and those 15 minutes after the break really cost us.” Next week Barnes visit Scottow Park, the fifth consecutive fixture against top six 2022 -23 finishers.
Team: 15. Benji Hewitt 14. Harry Dye 13. Dan Smith 12. Ross Magnus
- Tawanda Kandenwa 10. Harry Langbridge 9. Connor Dudley 1. Callum Howe 2. Russell Arnold 3. Tim Weber 4. Billy Tait 5. Ethan Holmwood 6. Leo Langbridge 7. Jobe Brooks 8. Charlie Fethney
Henly Brightman/ Howe (25 mins)
Hudson de Lucchi/ Fethney (32 mins)
Pieter de Lange/Arnold (half time)
Harry Steward/Hewitt (44 mins)
Lucas Atherton/Dye (56 mins)
Tries: Holmwood; Kandenwa
Conversions: Magnus (2)
Yellow Cards: Hewitt; Kandenwa
Referee: James Dowds
Paul Morse, 240923