HENLEY HAWKS put in a good performance at Dry Leas against Bedwas in a pre-season match last Saturday, writes Noel Armstead.
The match was played in four separate sessions starting with three of 25 minutes duration and the final and fourth being of 40 minutes. The first and last sessions were played between the strongest sides.
In the first session the Welsh visitors quickly established themselves in the Hawks’ 22 having earned a penalty from the Hawks’ kick-off and in possession, which they kept, pressed forward. Their scrum-half was able to steal away from a maul to touch down between the posts, a try which was converted.
The Hawks began to settle and get some possession which was used well by scrum-half Conor Murphy to test the Bedwas cover and his flat pass to centre Danny Wells supported by flanker Tom Hall took play into Bedwas territory. The Hawks now pressurised the Bedwas defence and drove over from 10 metres for Robbie Stapley to touch down which with a conversion by fly-half Comben equalised the score at 7-7.
The Hawks pack more than held their own in the set scrums and generally the visitors were getting the worst of encounters and mauls and rucks. This bore dividends when Murphy swept up a loose ball on the blind side to race away to touch down a try which Comben converted to give the Hawks a 12-7 advantage at the end of the session.
Both sides fielded completely changed sides for the second session. The Bedwas back line was quick and aggressive and tested the Hawks defence. In addition their pack was powerful in the set pieces and difficult to contain.
This became evident as they drove for the Hawks line on more than one occasion although the hosts resisted manfully. Eventually the referee adjudged that they were defending illegally and awarded a penalty try which with the conversion gave the visitors a 7-0 lead. This they increased to 12-0 two minutes later.
A penalty kick by fly-half Guy Swadling put the Hawks pack on a drive from the ensuing line-out and prop Sam Steventon was held up over the line. A flat pass from a scrum by scrum-half Mark Bruce to Swadling put the fly-half in space and his dummy put him over the Bedwas line. This try was converted to make the score 12-7 to the visitors which held until the end of the session.
In the third session the Hawks fielded a changed back division but again were well served at half-back by Swadling and now Micky Molloy at scrum-half. With Matt Payne in the back row with Tommy Haynes there was enough experience to hold a more senior Bedwas side. Although the Hawks seldom threatened to establish themselves in the visitors’ half they defended well under pressure to concede just one converted try as they went down 7-0. The Hawks started the fourth session well and had Bedwas trapped in their own half for the opening 15 minutes. It was when the ball was moved wide, with Comben putting in a wide pass, that the strong running Fred Pierrepoint used his strength to squeeze over in the corner for the fly-half to convert from wide out.
The Hawks forwards, who had done well in controlling their ball in the lineouts, then revealed that their play in controlling possession at restarts was again lamentable. This was instrumental in conceding two tries in as many minutes after fullback Tommy Allen had been caught in attempting to run the ball out immediately after Pierrepoint’s touch down. The ball was fumbled out of control from Bedwas’ restart and they ran away to make the score 14-7.
The Hawks were determined not to be second best to their Welsh opposition and held their own even after being reduced to 14 when Steventon was given a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in an attempt to stop Bedwas scoring under the posts.
The hosts stormed back to the Bedwas half and launched an attack down the right after an offload by Allen put Pierrepoint away on another surging run of 50 metres. He shook off attempts to tackle him and stepped inside a final attempt to stop him to give Comben again the opportunity to put the ball on the right side of the nearest upright to make it 14-14.
Henley Hawks: (first and fourth sessions) Dave Manning, Ed Church, Sam Steventon, Theo Vukastnavic, Dave Clements, Tom Hall, Ryan Newman, Robbie Stapley, Conor Murphy, James Comben, Simon Perry, Danny Wells, Tom Gardner, Fred Pierrepoint, Tom Allen; (second session) Hugo Milford-Scott, Jordan Bradley, Sam Stevenson, James Bloxham, Shek Sheriff, Samir Kharbouch, Tom Haynes, Will Woodward, Mark Bruce, Guy Swadling, Chris Antonoiu, Rory Lillington, Ed Simmons, Ross Lewis, Hubert Rayner; (third session) Jordan Bradley, Ian Brown, Hugo Milford Scott, James Bloxham, Shek Sheriff, Tom Stendler, Tom Haynes, Matt Payne, Mickey Molloy, Guy Swadling, Chris Antonoiu, Rory Lillington, Ed Simmons, Ross Lewis, Hubert Rayner.