Romans left frustrated in defeat.
OA’s Romans departed Dry Leas having dominated possession for vast periods of the game but were left frustrated by a well organised Henley Bulls defence- who were ruthlessly clinical in converting what was a limited number of counter-attacking opportunities.
The OA’s looked to have started where they had left off against Tring and dominated the first 10 minutes with wave after wave of forward carries but the ultimate story of the game was revealed within the first 15 minutes with Henley twice stripping an isolated Roman ball carrier and scoring two breakaway tries down the right wing. The Romans answered back with a penalty expertly converted from some 40 meters by fly-half Hearle, leaving the visitors within touching distance at 12-3 with 20 minutes played.
The Romans remained confident and upped the pressure on the Bulls as their forward pack re-asserted their dominance and their off-loading game began to find holes in the stubborn home defence. As the home side creaked, Hearle beat 4 men to cross the whitewash only for the Referee to call play back in what was a dubious citing of obstruction. Minutes later the 10 was again robbed of a score- after going over in the corner having bounced back to his feet after what looked to all observing to be an incomplete tackle, the official disagreed and penalised the fly-half for not releasing the ball as he returned to his feet.
The Romans finally looked as though they would make their vastly superior possession pay as with 5 minutes left of the half they were camped in the opposition 22. The more powerful OA’s pack had overwhelmed the Henley scrum from the off and having already produced 4 penalties, they looked certain to produce a seven pointer as they opted for a scrum penalty only 10 meters from the home line. However after numerous re-sets and penalties, they chose to strike wide from the base of the scrum but as the move was again thwarted the consequent breakdown produced another penalty in front of the posts which the away side opted to convert to narrow the score to 12-6 at halftime.
The Romans started the second half well with Edwards-Bayley, White-Martinez, Canevo, Stuart Forrest and skipper Grant Forrest continuing to ask serious questions of the Bulls defence. The home side continued to aim to frustrate the Romans attack with tremendous efforts in defence and walking the line of legality to slow their advances at the break-down. This was a line they eventually crossed, as a Henley player was sent to the sin bin for persistent infringements on the offside line. However the momentum of the game was to take another shift, as OAs brought on fresh legs to make the extra man count, a poor kick through from the Henley full back took a wicked bounce back into his hands and he galloped in from 40 meters to take the score to 19-6 with the conversion.
Henley scored twice more as the Romans began to tire having lost 5 backs to injury by the 65th minute. It was the Wollams men that ended the game the strongest, with 13 forwards on the pitch and missing both a recognised 9 and 10, they kept it tight and their attritional style was capped by a barnstorming solo try from Edwards-Bayley- the number eight shrugging off four Henley tacklers to end the game 33-11 to the home side.
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