The Henley College recorded a bonus point victory with the very last play of the game in an enthralling AASE league fixture, which had the small, but vociferous, crowd up and down, out of their seats more times than a barber’s cat. With just two rounds of the regular season remaining Tom Rowlands’ match winning try puts Henley in with a live chance of making the semi finals.
Filton have topped the league since the opening round thanks to a watertight defence and multi-dimensional attacking game honed in around their record breaking seven a side campaign of last season.
The Bristol side signalled their intent by stretching Henley’s defence from side to side in the early exchanges, but it was Henley who created the first real scoring opportunities. Clean breaks by centres Lewys Weaver and Jonno Woodward went unrewarded as Henley’s finishing let them down with the line beckoning on both occasions. In contrast, Filton came away with three points from their first sortie into Henley’s 22 when fly half Will Thomas dropped a neat goal. Stalemate ensued for the next twenty minutes despite both sides testing one another’s defences with some creative attacking play. This continued until the visitors extended their lead with a superbly executed set piece move on half way, which allowed full back Harvey Skelton to race away, and score under the posts. The simple conversion meant that Filton led 10-0 at the break.
Henley’s task looked even tougher ten minutes into the second half when precise handling from an attacking lineout allowed flying winger Asante to get outside of Henley’s drift defence and squeeze in at the corner. Henley then abandoned any idea of kicking in open play, launching multi-phase attacks from all areas of the field. This paid dividends when lock Bradley Scharff burst through the middle of a ruck on halfway. Three phases later winger Liam O’Neill showed his finishing qualities to dive over in the corner. Kicker George Eastwell gave Henley further hope when his touchline conversion bounced off the cross bar and over.
The eight-point deficit was short lived however, as Filton struck back almost immediately thanks to a second drop goal from Thomas, this time a monster effort from just inside Henley’s half. Filton then looked to have put the game beyond any doubt when Skelton scored his second try under the posts to give Filton what appeared to be an unassailable 25-7 lead with little more than 10 minutes remaining.
The turning point in the game was undoubtedly the sin binning of one of Filton’s forwards during a period of sustained pressure by Henley. When Henley were awarded a free kick 15 metres out scrum half Jack Daly chose to tap and go but was immediately obstructed by an offside player, giving referee Leyshon little option but to dispatch the offender to the sin bin. Henley took full advantage scoring soon after when Weaver was rewarded for a fine performance by crossing close to the uprights. Eastwell duly converted to reduce the arrears to 25-14.
Henley wasted no time getting back into the Filton half when Eastwell put Zak Maiden through a hole, although this attack was halted in the opposition 22. Henley’s ball retention was immaculate (remarkably they retained possession at every single breakdown during the whole game) and O’Neill was on hand again to power his way over close to the posts ensuring the conversion was a formality.
With less than five minutes left on the clock and Filton restored to fifteen players, the odds were still stacked against Henley but they had now created serious momentum. With time almost up, a penalty was quickly taken by Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas who carried play deep into Filton territory. Henley went through numerous phases, each time inching closer and closer to the winning score, until Rowlands smashed his way over from short range to cap a stunning comeback from the home side.