'It would be an awful way to win a game'
A brilliant act of sportsmanship from Henley Hawks has reminded everyone that rugby’s traditional values are still alive and kicking.
With their round 14 National Two South clash with Barnes locked at 17-all the clock was in the red at the end of the contest.
So when referee Ben Rayner blew a penalty against the visitors inside their own 22, home supporters were expecting fly half Matt Dalrymple to point to the posts.
However, what almost no-one – including the referee – had realised was that Barnes flanker Jasper Cameron was unable to roll away on the ground because he had been knocked unconscious making the tackle.
Henley skipper Jake Albon takes up the story from there:
“It was a very tough physical encounter with two sides that really went at it from start to finish,” he said.
“The lead had gone back and forth as the game went on and when we reached the last play of the game we put a few phases together and went down the field into their 22 where we were given a penalty.
“I was still getting up from the bottom of the previous ruck but soon realised that everyone was very emotional.
“The penalty had been given before the ref realised that Jasper was down unconscious with a head injury.
“He was down four or five minutes and thankfully after some treatment was absolutely fine.
“That did at least give us time to get our heads together and decide what was the best course of action. There was a few ideas floated around and we thought about starting with a tap-and-go.
“But I had a chat with our forwards coach and a few of the other boys on the field and we decided to tap the ball and kick it out to end the game rather than taking a shot at the posts.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure we would have got the penalty as it was on an angle on the left side of the posts but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.
“The main thing was that Jasper was alright and we all were able to head off to Christmas with no bad feelings.
“It would have been an awful way to win a game and I certainly can’t imagine how losing it that way would have felt. Looking back I’m happy that the right decision was made.”
Henley’s tremendous act of sportsmanship was made all the more laudable by their league position – fifth – and the fact that four clubs seem likely to this season win promotion from English rugby’s two fourth-tier divisions following the demise of National One Old Elthamians.
However, according to Albon the tragic death of second row Dave Hyde, who collapsed following Henley’s early-season clash with Old Albanian, has given everyone at the club a wider perspective.
“It’s the halfway point of the season and we’re trying to push to the top of the table and get promoted but some things are bigger than rugby,” he said.
“We’re glad that Jasper is OK; everything we’ve been through this year and the superb support we’ve received from the wider rugby community was maybe at the back of our minds without us realising it and it just seemed the right thing to do.
“You can view success in lots of ways – and not just with league points – and the way our club has rallied round and got out there every week after everything that happened has been tremendous.”
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