HENLEY HAWKS suffered a disappointing defeat at home to Cinderford on Saturday.
Both sides approached this game knowing that the result would be important in terms of making progress in getting away from the basement end of the league.
A blustery wind greeted the teams at the start of the game. Cinderford looked well prepared and played with determination which put the Hawks on the back foot.
Throughout the game the visitors had the measure of the Hawks forwards who were slower to breakdowns and rucked more effectively turning over the Hawks’ possession and robbing them in the tackle. This was soon evident as they spent most of the opening quarter in the Hawks half. They were chivvied on by the experienced scrum-half Clive Stuart Smith whose leadership and management of the game was not matched by the Hawks.
In an attempt to get away from their own territory the Hawks moved the ball wide rather than kick into the brisk if variable wind.
The visitors controlled possession by strong tackling and rucking and turned this to effect when from a line-out they drove over for a try by Tom Buzzard after 18 minutes, taking advantage of the absence of Hawks number six Luke Allen who had been sent to the sin bin four minutes earlier. This try was converted by fly-half Mark Davies in the difficult windy conditions.
Cinderford had the benefit of the following wind in the first half and Davies used this well with some well placed kicks to the corners.
The Hawks came into the game with some handling movements by their backs but were thwarted by a good defence and handling errors in the tricky conditions. They found it difficult to retain possession against a strong physical pack and were turned over by a number of penalties conceded when in possession at a ratio of two to one.
The visitors shunned the opportunity to kick penalty goals from attacking positions and there was not one attempt to kick at goal throughout the game by either side.
Although the Hawks were relieved by crooked feeding of the scrum by Stuart Smith on two occasions in their 10 metre area they did have difficulty in the set scrum and lost two heels against the head in the course of the game. However, they had the most secure possession from their line-outs for many a match which helped to prevent the Foresters increasing their lead before half-time.
The Hawks had difficulty in breaking the visitors’ line and their the best effort came from fullback Ed Yarnton who made 40 yards in midfield on one occasion but lacked support to make a sustained attack.
Despite being a man down from the start of the second half with prop Chris Bundy sidelined in the sin bin Cinderford still denied Henley possession. Soon after his return they again demonstrated their ability to turn over possession when a Hawks attack down the right ended when replacement wing Sam Baker broke away on a run of 40 metres which fully stretched the Hawks defence and successful rucking near the posts was switched leftwards for lock Lance Randall to crash over for an unconverted try to make it 12-0.
The blackened sky then heralded ferocious wind with such hail and rain that the playing area was obliterated with a corner flag hurtled towards the half-way line. Although the playing surface was submerged with water in places play was continued after an eight minute suspension.
When the game resumed the Hawks had their best period of play and James Comben at fly-half put in some effective kicking to keep play in the Foresters’ territory.
The Hawks had, at times, put in some useful driving mauls and on winning a line-out 20 metres out drove successfully to the line for Robbie Stapley to reduce the score to 12-5.
The Hawks looked to have secured a bonus point and this inspired them to play their most aggressive rugby of the game.
Replacement centre Tom Allen was stopped 10 metres out after a run of 20 metres. This was followed by two penalties which were conceded by the visitors under severe pressure.
Another Hawks drive for the line from a line-out, supported by two backs, was stopped when Cinderford lock Randall was given a yellow card for illegally bringing down the maul.
The visitors were relieved that the referee did not think it worthy of a penalty try which would have given the Hawks the opportunity to draw the game with a straightforward conversion. The final whistle followed giving the Foresters a well deserved victory.
Henley Hawks: 15 Ed Yarnton, 14 Christoph Bart, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Danny Wells (Tom Allen, 60 mins), 11 Martin Nutt, 10 James Comben, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Jim Hadfield (Dai Maddocks, 51 mins), 2 Ant Brennan (Will Woodward, 52 mins), 3 Dave Manning, 4 Liam Dwyer, 5 Josh McNally, 6 Luke Allen (Ryan Long, 51 mins), 7 Ryan Newman, 8 Robbie Stapley (Xavier Andre).