HENLEY HAWKS 29 CANTERBURY 32
In a gripping and high quality encounter the centre pairing of Tom Best and Sam Sterling propelled Canterbury to their fifth straight victory. Between them they scored four of their side’s five tries as the city club leapfrogged Hawks to take second place in the National 2 South table.
This was a battle between the creativity of the Canterbury backs and a well drilled Henley pack whose most dangerous weapon at close quarters was the driving maul. It earned them three of their own five tries and, late in the game, a second bonus point.
The city club had to hold their nerve and survive two yellow cards in the final minutes but they were always ahead on the scoreboard and the quality of their rugby made them deserving winners.
They seized the initiative early on, controlling possession and opening the way for Best to put in a decisive finish and brother Ollie to convert the try. When Hawks finally got some momentum their forwards did the business by setting up a try for skipper Sam Lunnon but it was those Canterbury backs who were carving the openings and it was to bring Sterling two tries before the break.
An accurate flat pass from Tom Best sent his partner over for the first but that was quickly neutralised when the city side conceded a penalty. Henley’s efficient lineout drive did the rest for hooker Tom Emery who went on to claim a hat trick of touchdowns.
Ollie Best topped up Canterbury’s narrow lead with a penalty goal and the gap was pushed to ten points when Sterling ran a clever angle to complete another fluid and accurate move.
The ammunition for the city club’s quick men was supplied by another great shift from the pack where prop Sam Kenny, making his 100th appearance, was one of several powerful ball carriers. It was their work at the break down that led to the bonus point try five minute into the second half. Dan Smart spotted the gap at the side of the ruck and linked with Tristan King before Tom Best finished off and Ollie Best’s conversion opened a seventeen point lead.
If that looked comfortable the picture soon changed. Unnecessary penalties were an open invitation for the Hawks. They took full advantage, striking twice with tries for Alex Bradley and Emery, and a conversion from Finn Pietersen threw the game back in the melting pot.
Then came a vital score for the city club. Sterling made the initial thrust, the ball was spread wide and Aiden Moss gave Dan Smart the scoring pass.
Canterbury continued to offend and concede territory and under severe pressure lost Jamie Stephens and Royce Cadman to the sin bin but they hung on even though Emery salvaged a point for Hawks in the last play of the game,
Canterbury: A.Moss, R.Mackintosh, S.Sterling, T.Best, JJ Murray (repl C.Grimes, repl F.Edwards), O.Best, D.Smart, A.Cooper (repl J .Green), T.King, S.Kenny, R.Cadman, M.Corker, L.Whetton (repl J.Otto), S.Stapleton, J.Stephens