HENLEY HAWKS 30 CANTERBURY 30
By David Haigh
This was the day when all the commitment, fire and intelligence that have been missing from Canterbury’s performances came flooding back.
They outscored the Hawks by five tries to three and had a kickable penalty hit the target in the last minute of the game the city side would have come away with a notable victory.
In hindsight that might have been tough on Henley but it was a rejuvenated Canterbury who finished the stronger and they probably deserved more than just the three league points which go a long way to banishing any doubts about their place in National Division 2 South.
For they can point to a mighty effort from their pack who won most of the important battles and helped keep Henley’s clever and dangerous back division in check.
And despite a couple of wobbles which led to two of the Hawks’ tries, the whole side defended with purpose and skill.
Canterbury cured one recent weakness by making a good start and JJ Murray’s sixth minute try, on the back of an Aiden Moss break, generated confidence.
Unluckily, it was Moss’s last contribution as he took a knock to the head in the build up to the score.
By the start of the second quarter the lead had gone. Henley’s George Jackson, whose accurate goal kicking was to prove influential, made the break for a Jack Robinson try and the scrum-half followed up with the first of his three penalty goals.
But the city side were up for the fight and put themselves back in the driving seat with two tries.
First they worked the blind side and Harry Sayers, in top form, powered over. Next it was a penalty won and a clinical catch and drive that did the trick for Jake Rigby.
Tom Best could not add the conversions from difficult positions and before half time Canterbury suffered a double blow.
A rare missed tackle gave Hawks centre Connor Hayhow a clear run to the line, Jackson again converting, but the back row jinx that has hit hard this season struck again as Seb Clark departed with hamstring damage.
The seeds of a possible victory were sewn in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half as a dominant Henley but were resisted at every turn.
The vital first score of the half then went to Canterbury as Sayers swooped on a dropped pass and outpaced the cover for a bonus point try.
It was a huge boost but the pattern of swapping point for point continued.
Jackson and Best exchanged penalty goals before Hawks crept back into the lead with a converted try for number eight Max Berry.
Five minutes from the end the city side, now driving hard into the Henley ranks, looked poised for victory when hooker Jarvis Otto’s catch and drive score was converted by Best.
But despite the late pressure coming from an impressive Canterbury it was Jackson, kicking his 15th point of the match from a penalty, who ensured the draw.
Canterbury: Moss (replacement Mackintosh), Murray, Morgan (replacement Braithwaite), Sterling, Sayers, Best, Smart, Cooper, Rogers (replacement J.Otto), Kenny (replacement Wake-Smith), Cadman, Corker, Whetton, Clark (replacement Townley), Rigby.