National 2 South
Henley Hawks 33, Taunton Titans 27

TAUNTON Titans collected two points from their trip to the Thames Valley on Saturday, as second-placed Henley Hawks edged out their third-placed visitors by six points, writes Dick Macey.

The two sides put on a show of epic proportions and slugged it out until the final whistle, with the Hawks claiming the spoils but the Titans coming away with much of the glory.

This was a game that fully lived up to its billing as a top-of-the-table clash, with referee Daniel Collins having an excellent afternoon and adding his level-headed contribution to the overall quality of the afternoon.

Although it was Taunton who took a very early lead through a penalty goal by Gary Kingdom, it was the home side who claimed the high ground in the first half by scoring three tries through David Hyde, George Griffiths and George Wood, two of which were converted by Ewan Fenley.

The Titans' sluggish tackling down the outside channels provided the scoring opportunities for the Hawks, and then a glaring miss down the middle gave a lop-sided appearance to the scoreboard.

The visitors' only other addition to score came through a penalty try when the Hawks pack succumbed to a superior Titans drive, giving the referee no alternative as the scrum collapsed.

And so the home side led 19-10 at the half-time break, with little indication of the excitement to come.

The start of the session saw the Hawks power in for two more converted tries (scored by Samir Kharbouch and Fenley) and it was only then, as the Titans began bringing on their replacements and shuffling their backs, that the intensity of the game rose to the highest level.

For the final 20 minutes of the game the visitors tore into their opponents.

Tries came from Jack Arnott and two from Sonny Haines, one converted by Kingdom, brought the game to a nerve-tingling climax with the Titans all over the Hawks like a rash.

Having claimed their try-scoring bonus point, they were all out for the winner.

Had the referee not brought proceedings to a close that could well have been the outcome, as Taunton were left to rue their earlier tackling deficiencies but came away with two well-earned points (the try bonus and the losing points bonus).

Taunton Titans: Connor Baker, George Gosling, Isaac Dalton, Cory Teague, Brett Harvey, Ben Oliphant-Thompson, Charlie Williams, Dan Lee (c); Lewis Webb, Sam Baker, Greg Kitson, Toby East, Nick Mason, Jack Arnott, Gary Kingdom. Replacements: Alex Rodd, Sonny Haines, Stuart Persey, Thomas Wyatt, James Tait.

The Titans have now lost a little ground to the two sides ahead of them - Henley and this coming Saturday’s opponents, Tonbridge Juddians - but there is no evidence of the fat lady doing her thing just yet.