HENLEY HAWKS missed out on a bonus point as they overcame difficult playing conditions to run out 25-15 winners in the Forest of Dean on Saturday.
The muddy state of the Lydney pitch meant the Hawks could not play their usual running, flowing game in a rearranged match that was postponed back in December.
The Hawks were bogged down in the first 15 minutes of the game and Lydney had the majority of possession with territorial advantage.
Although they did not build movements to threaten the Hawks line referee Fergus Kirby was soon busy with his whistle for offside and going over the ball in rucks and it was no surprise when, after 10 minutes, Lydney’s fly half Dan Trigg was successful with a penalty to put his side ahead.
This lead was short-lived for Hawks’ number 10 Will Robinson was able to equalise with a similar effort five minutes later.
This heralded the start of Henley’s attacking dominance built on strong scrummaging which they maintained in this area of the game throughout.
The visitors’ mauling play also put Lydney on the back foot. This enabled them to play with ball in hand and make for enterprising play despite the testing conditions. They were well served in developing this by the new half-back combination of Will Robinson (fly half) and Jonah Holmes (scrum half).
It was Holmes who cracked open the Lydney defence to put the Hawks in the lead. He broke from a solid scrum on halfway and side-stepping an attempted tackle ran to draw the Lydney fullback Tony Wicks before putting wing Xavier Andre away to score his 12th try of the season. This was converted by Robinson who missed just one place kick in the game. He put the Hawks 13-3 in the lead four minutes later with his second penalty.
Robinson’s kicking out of hand also drove Lydney back when they attacked and handling movements were not appropriate. He distributed the ball to give the Hawks movements, some width and was on hand to touch down his side’s second try. This was created by fullback Martin Nutt who, running at pace, ran through six tackles from the Hawks’ 10-metre line before swerving to find Robinson in support who ran in unopposed from 40 metres to put his side 18-3 up at half-time.
It seemed that a bonus point for four tries was now for the Hawks’ taking in the second half. However, although the Hawks continued to have the best of all the forward exchanges a third try looked imminent when lock Josh McNally broke away from a maul on halfway stepping out of a tackle with Andre alongside but his pass to the wing was slightly delayed and smothered.
The visitors also looked likely to open their scoring in the second half when Robinson made a break and taking the option to kick ahead appeared to be late tackled as he pursued it, but the referee did not agree.
It was not until the 70th minute that the Hawks added a third try. This came when, after exerting pressure on the Lydney line, they drove once more to cross the whitewash, when the Lydney front row could do nothing to stop it, apart from standing up, which resulted in the referee awarding a penalty try making the score 25-3 with Robinson’s conversion.
The Hawks were now fully on to score their fourth try but through a loss of concentration and lack of patience they allowed Lydney back into the game and the last 10 minutes saw them launch their first real attacks of the game and score two tries. In the first instance they developed a driving maul which the Hawks could not hold and Ben Taylor was awarded a try. Almost immediately after a cross kick by Wicks caught the Hawks without cover down the left and centre Chris Holder won the race for the touchdown. With one conversion the score was now 25-15.
The Hawks were stung into action and were driving down left when a break by replacement scrum half Luke Carter down the blind side was stopped by means of a dangerous tip tackle by Taylor who was sent to the sin bin with a yellow card.
The Hawks drove for the line but were held up over it just before the full-time whistle was blown.
Henley Hawks: 15 Martin Nutt, 14 Xavier Andre (Luke Carter, 54 mins), 13 Jevon Marsh (Neil Baggett, 59 mins), 12 Tom Allen, 11 Richard Briggs, 10 Will Robinson, 9 Jonah Holmes, 1 Hugo Milford Scott (Dai Maddocks, 40 mins), 2 Liam Dwyer, 3 Dave Manning (Jim Hadfield, 67 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Josh McNally, 6 Matt Payne (Ben Ashmore, 54 mins), 7 Will Woodward, 8 Robbie Stapley.