SEB Reynolds praised the 'guts and determination' of his Rams side after the National Two South table-toppers scored twice in the final five minutes – including a last-play Jak Rossiter try – to snatch a dramatic 19-12 victory at Henley Hawks in an enthralling Battle of the Thames derby on Saturday, writes Richard Ashton.

Going into the game Rams sat 11 points of their nearest rivals in second place, but they had to show incredible courage to stop a pumped-up Hawks side from claiming victory, trailing 12-7 before Rossiter crossed twice in the dying moments in front of a bumper crowd of 1,160.

And Reynolds – who showed his class by immediately shaking hands with every member of the Hawks side straight after the game – told the Chronicle: "It was an advert for local talent in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

"Henley are a young side and for the most part they were the better team, but my guys showed such guts and determination to come back and credit must go to the heart we showed in the game.

"We've had to learn from disappointment in those (close games). Over the last three or four years we've lost in the last play of the game to Bishop's Stortford twice when they went up, to Cinderford to last year, and through that adversity we learn.

"You have to go through some tough patches to produce performances like that where you're not at your best, the occasion can get to both sets of players, but we showed fantastic drive towards the end to get the result."

He added: "The players loved the crowd. Both sides were supported brilliantly and Henley were fantastic. We beat a quality team."

Indeed, outside of scrum time Hawks had the better of the first half, but were ultimately made to pay for butchering a succession of chances before they finally opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time, second row Dave Hyde breaking a Connor Corrigan tackle before off-loading inside for former Ram Dan Barnes to cross in the corner.

The visitors came out firing after the break, though, and struck back five minutes in when a series of infringements on their own line against the rolling maul and then scrum left referee Nick Wood – the former Gloucester prop – with no option but to award a penalty try and Rams a 7-5 lead.

Hawks should have retaken the lead, only for Roddy Giles' penalty in front of the posts to strike the upright, but Rams suffered another set-back when prop Niall Kidd was sin-binned for a tip-tackle.

Henley used their numerical advantage count when Dave Manning crossed in the corner in the 67th minute, before a brilliant Giles conversion made it 12-7.

Yet Rams are nothing if not short of belief, and they levelled on 75 minutes when a loose ball was hacked forward by Ellis Jones for Rossiter to pick up and dive over.

And with the Hawks creaking in the wake of more than 20 phases of possession, a phenomenal display of sustained pressure on the hosts' line ended with the ball being flung wide where Rossiter grabbed his second to send the visiting fans wild.

Seers added the extras to put a further gloss on proceedings, and a delighted Reynolds could not hide his pride in Rams, particularly with the way they held their nerve at the death.

He commented: "It was something we didn't do too well in the first half, but when we came under pressure we held onto the ball quite well. In that pressure cooker of a final play, to hold our nerve and get the try, I was really pleased.

"These boys in blue are just a bunch of boys from Reading who are looking to do something quite cool, and we don't know how the league is going to pan out – all we can do is try and perform each week and develop and grow. They're a pleasure to be around."

A feature of Ram victory was their heroic defence, and Reynolds paid tribute to coach Danny Batty, stating: "He is one of the most class individuals I've ever met in my life. Sadly his father (Tim) passed away recently and he was a big member at Henley, so this was an emotional occasion for him.

"Half the guys didn't know because that's just the way he is, but what he's done with our team and our defence is nothing short of amazing. I thank him for that."

The result leaves Rams 13 points clear of Canterbury, who move up to second, and 14 ahead of third-placed Hawks, but Reynolds is not taking anything for granted.

He warned: "This doesn't mean anything in terms of the result of the league, I don't know how it's going to go.

"It was a big occasion, but it's just the first game of 2019, and there's a long, long way to go.

"We do have a buffer and that buffer has been created through our own hard work, but we must keep working each week.

"We only ever really focus on how we improve, so they'll be areas from this game where we'll look how we can improve. That's what we do."

Rams welcome the only side to have beaten them this season – Old Albanians – to Old Bath Road next week as they aim to extend their winning run to 14 matches.

But again Reynolds was coy, stating: "It's just another game. Old Albanians are a quality side who have been up in National One, they played really well against us last time and we see another challenge in front of us against another really, really good team.

"It's just endless in this league, because every team is good."