National 2 South
Henley Hawks 38, Taunton Titans 5

WHATEVER slim hopes Taunton Titans had of earning promotion this season look to have disappeared into the abyss, after they were outclassed by Henley Hawks on Sunday afternoon.

Despite missing several players who were unavailable for this rearranged match, the Titans were still able to name a strong team.

Nonetheless, for all the experience of the likes of Gary Kingdom and player-coach Julian Salvi, Taunton were overwhelmed by a home side which started strongly and did not loosen their grip on the contest.

Henley dominated possession from the kick-off, but they only took the lead following some Titans pressure – an offload not going to hand, the hosts counter-attacking and lock Jake Albon crashing over the whitewash following a lineout.

That try went unconverted, but in spring-like conditions it was the home team who came out on top in the battle of running rugby – fly-half Ben Bolster going in under the posts for a try which he converted himself, and centre Dan Barnes adding another unconverted score before half time.

Down 17-0 at the interval, the Titans needed a response, and they had one in the first five minutes of the second half, winger Aron Struminski claiming the try, but the conversion was missed.

Still 12 points behind, the visitors had to go for it, but the end-to-end contest favoured the Hawks, as captain Sam Lunnon and Liam O'Neill stretched their lead.

A final score on full time rubbed salt in the wound, Lunnon going over again after another Titans mistake to secure a 38-5 home win.

Taunton Titans: Connor Baker, Chris Francis, Isaac Dalton, Barrie-John Chapman, Dan Ogden, Max Woodward, Julian Salvi, Jarrard Hayler; Oli Massy-Birch, Lewis Webb, Ollie Rice, Freddie Fraser, Nick Mason, Aron Struminski, Gary Kingdom.
Replacements: Andy Hamilton, Alex Spurdle, Corry Teague, Sam Brown.

The result means that Taunton have dropped to fifth in the table, eight points off the promotion play-off spot held by Canterbury with seven games remaining this campaign.

This coming Saturday sees the Titans entertain 13th-placed Barnes at the Commsplus Stadium (ko 3pm).