Chinnor knocked off the top after being held in Christmas cracker

Picture by Aaron Bayliss
Picture by Aaron Bayliss

Chinnor lost their spot atop National League Division Two South after an enthralling 29-29 draw with Henley Hawks.

This had all the ingredients of a fiesty local derby particularly at the beginning of the festive season: a foggy day and big crowd expecting a game to suit the occasion, which it duly did.

Henley were fired up against their Oxfordshire rivals and a lot of kicking in the first few minutes saw them gain most of the territory.

However, when Chinnor managed to gain some possession on nine minutes, Kieron Goss scored a trademark try breaking through two tackles to score near the posts, converted by Sam Angell.

Some intense Henley pressure followed which led to their first try by Simon Perry, but straight from the restart, a penalty by Angell increased the Chinnor lead and this was to be indicative of the nip and tuck nature of the game.

Throughout this period, the Henley line-out was sound and a rolling maul following a clean catch by captain Dave Clement led to a well-worked try by hooker Tom Emery.

The scores were now level at 10-10, and the flow of the game then swung towards Chinnor when flanker Alex Bradley, on loan from Ealing Trailfinders, scooped up the ball and ran in from 10 metres after a Nathan Hannay break.

Angell converted for Chinnor to go in at half-time seven points ahead at 17-10.

The second-half started dramatically when Henley kicked through following a Chinnor handling error in midfield and Liam O’Neill touched down. The try was converted by George Jackson to level the scores once again.

Chinnor’s scrum was starting to put enormous pressure on the Henley pack and eventually this led to a superbly worked try for Nathan Hannay on 54 minutes, again Angell adding the extras.

At times this season, Chinnor’s Achilles heel has been their indiscipline and on 59 minutes second row Ross Parkins was sin-binned, letting Henley back into the game, and minutes later, the extra man told when Emery went over for his second try and Henley’s fourth.

Soon after Chinnor’s problems were compounded when hooker Koree Britton was carded for foul play. Henley seized the initiative and when a rolling maul was pulled down illegally, the visitors were awarded a penalty try. This was converted by Jackson to put Henley 29-24 in the lead.

In the dying minutes and with the vocal home support calling for one last effort, Chinnor moved the ball from one end of the park to the other which saw Angell crash over for Chinnor’s try bonus point.

Injured in crossing the line, Angell’s conversion attempt sailed wide of the posts and with the scores tied 29-29, this pulsating game came to a fitting close.

“It was a good local derby, a very attritional game,” said Chinnor director of rugby Matt Williams afterwards.

It was close today but Chinnor remain unbeaten at Kingsey Road and can go into the New Year with confidence having scored a mammoth 644 points so far this season.