Henley Hawks 0, London Welsh 64
THE final score from last Saturday’s friendly spells out clearly the position of the two clubs in the rugby hierarchy — London Welsh newly promoted to the Premier Division, the Hawks four divisions below them having been relegated to Division 2 South at the end of last season, writes Noel Armstead.
The crowd of more than 600 at Dry Leas enjoyed an open, fast flowing game which the hosts learnt from. The Hawks were not demoralised by the margin of defeat for although they were 50-0 down at half-time, conceding eight tries and five conversions, the game became more closely contested in the second 40 minutes and it was 27 minutes before the visitors scored again. London Welsh added their second converted try of the half in the closing minutes to register 64 points. At the start of the game the Hawks found it difficult to take play out of their own territory and conceded two tries to lock Ben West in the first eight minutes as the visitors led 12-0.
When the hosts got possession they could not retain it. This was not because they kicked it away for they maintained the strategy which they adopted the previous two seasons of running the ball out of defence. They were hard pressed to break the Welsh defence and the turnover ball which resulted gave the visitors the opportunity to develop scoring opportunities.
London Welsh capitalised on these to such an extent that six of the eight tries in the first half came from Hawks mistakes in handling and only the last two were created by them in the last five minutes of the first 40 minutes.
Led by a dominant back row including the influential Dan Brown the Welsh denied the Hawks attacking opportunities in the first half and although in the early stages they held their own in the set scrums and only the lively Micky Molloy at scrum-half made any impact with the ball in hand.
From the start of the second half the changes in the teams at the break saw the Hawks develop good handling movements and for the third quarter the game was increasingly played in the Welsh half. The scrum- halves used Mark Bruce and predominately Conor Murphy kept them moving forward by using tapped penalties. Murphy in particular sniped away frequently but it was unfortunate that back play could not develop with the departure of fly-half James Comben with a blood injury.
The Hawks did not put pressure on the Welsh line but the pace and running ability of Piers O’Conor on the right wing on more than one occasion made incursions which promised to open up their defence. In contrast to the first half they were driven back in the scrums by an experienced front row. Nevertheless, it was not until the award of a yellow card to the Hawks in the last 10 minutes that the visitors were again able to develop their attacking flair and two late tries opened the scoring in the second half, both converted by former Hawks player Will Robinson.
Henley Hawks squad: backs — Tom Allen, Fred Pierrepoint, Piers O’Conor, Dan Barnes, Ed Simmons, Guy Swadling, Micky Molloy, Christoph Bart, Tom Gardner, Harry Glover, James Comben, Mark Bruce, Rory Lillington, Conor Murphy, Conor Corrigan; forwards — Tom West, Jordan Brodley, Tim Coghlan, Will Woodward, Dave Clements, Samir Kharbouch, Shek Sherriff, Barty Carson, Ryan Newman, Dave Manning, George Edgson, Sam Steventon, James Bloxham, Theo Vulkasinovic, Tom Hall, Tommy Haynes, George Hayes, Jake O’Leary, Tim Steindler.