It was to be another frustrating afternoon for the Bees who, having got themselves back in contention in the second half after a lacklustre showing in the first period, suffered their eighth league defeat of the season without the consolation of a bonus point to show for their endeavours.
League position and form coming into the game, played in glorious late autumn sunshine in front of a decent and appreciative crowd, suggested that this should be a relatively easy assignment for the visitors from the Thames Valley.
Despite being 3-0 down to a Jack Jolly penalty after 12 minutes, the Hawks looked to have spiked their hosts guns with a competent first half performance which saw them dominate possession and territory and notch up two converted tries, both of which were scored whilst prop Nick Bingham was in the sin bin.
Winger Liam O’Neill darted over in the right-hand corner with 32 minutes on the clock after several attacking scrums which had led to the Bingham yellow card. Four minutes later his brother Ryan, playing at inside centre, strolled through the Bees back line for an all too easy score. Successful conversions by O’Neill (L) gave the visitors a 3-14 advantage at the break.
The Bees were guilty of yielding up what limited ball they were allowed in the first half, but to their credit – with the exception of the two tries conceded – they were defensively robust in the first period.
When Henley were first on the scoreboard just three minutes in from the restart, thanks to a catch and drive try for No.8 Alex Bradley, it seemed that the fate of the game could quickly be sealed. Yet with fresh legs off the bench in the shape of the evergreen Stewart Peal and flanker Michael Stephens, the Bees got out of third gear and took the game to the Hawks.
An Umraan Jadwat try reduced the deficit to 8-19 and with the Henley tight head sent to the bin, the Bees capitalised with a second try in as many matches for scrum half Mike Hagan. Jolly was successful with the conversion and the Bees were right back in contention at 15-19 with 15 minutes to go.
Henley rode their luck though and a speculative kick through and a lucky bounce gave full back Sam Randle what was to prove to be the decisive score, restoring the lead to 15-24. Despite losing Dave Manning - referee Chandrachud issuing him his marching orders after a second yellow – Henley were home and hosed with a bonus point win in the bag, denying their hosts a crumb of comfort in the shape of a losing bonus point for their efforts.
The defeat keeps the Bees just one place off the bottom of National League 2 South and they travel to St Albans this weekend (Saturday 24th November KO 3pm) to face Old Albanian, who’s win on Saturday away at Clifton kept them in sixth spot in the table
Bees v Henley Hawks: 1. Nick Bingham, 2. Zane Raimondi 3. Nick Rigby, 4. Matt Spink, 5. Andy Weaver, 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Marcus Brown, 8. Umraan Jadwat (T), 9. Mike Hagan (T), 10. Jack Jolly (C) (P,1C), 11. Matt Dight, 12. Adam Nunney, 13. Dan Kelly, 14. Corey Venus, 15. Ben Phillips.
Replacements: 16. Matt Probert, 17. Stewart Pearl, 18. Michael Stephens, 19. Nathan Tilsley, 20. Luke Smith.
Referee:- Alan Chandrachud, ARs Jamie Minyards and Hayden Sarjeant.