Thursday, 11 August 2022

Late disallowed try ensures Hawks triumph in high-scoring encounter

HENLEY Hawks ran out narrow winners against bottom-of-the-league Exmouth in a game which resembled a school

HENLEY Hawks ran out narrow winners against bottom-of-the-league Exmouth in a game which resembled a school seven-a-side match at Dry Leas last Saturday.

The Hawks had poor ball retention and indifferent handling skills and careless play saw them present three tries to Exmouth who were quick to take advantage of their errors.

In addition they failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities, particularly at start of the game after Xavier Andre ran strongly through from 22 metres to touch down to give scrum-half George Jackson a straightforward conversion to make it 7-0.

The Hawks were well on top at this stage and increased their lead to 14 points when prop Ziana Montout-Alexis crashed over from a forward drive for a converted try whilst Exmouth were reduced to 14 players as captain Jack Fahy was sin binned for foul play.

A crushing defeat seemed to threaten Exmouth but they were to benefit from the profligate play of the Hawks’ backs as a clearance kick was allowed to bounce between wing and fullback who stood still. This allowed the visitors’ fullback Dan Powell to collect the ball to run away to score under the posts for fly-half George Meadows to convert — to add to the penalty with which he had put Exmouth on the scoreboard after 16 minutes — and reduce the arrears to 14-10.

The Hawks hit back by scoring the try of the match when fly-half Joe Butler collected the ball in space deep in the Hawks’ half. He proceeded to carve, at pace, a hole in the Exmouth cover to run though to their posts and touch down for a try converted by his half-back partner Jackson to put his side 21-10 in the lead. An interception try by Henry Goldson, who latched on to a 20 metre pass, was converted by Meadows, who had a 100 per cent record all game, to made the score 21-17 at the break.

The start of the second half was something of disaster as the restart kick-off was knocked on and this put Exmouth on the attack. Their pack had been masters in the set scrums from the 21st minute as tight head Brad Cook had been withdrawn because of injury. They could not use driving mauls to create a score or defend.

Exmouth took advantage of this observed weakness to drive over for a score near the posts to give them the lead for the first time with number eight Sam Thomas going over for a try which with conversion put them 24-21 ahead. This lead was short lived for the Hawks immediately retaliated with a converted try by Liam O’Neill who had frequently caused problems during the game with his elusive running making the score 28-24.

Further slack play by the Hawks ended with Powell once more on hand to seize a loose ball, the result of sloppy control to race away for their fourth gift try of the game. With the score at 31-28 the Hawks were beginning to look like they were facing a defeat largely of their own making.

The hosts rallied immediately with a penalty by Jackson. Then, pressing hard in an attack, they got into a position that enabled centre Tom Gardner to touch down which was not converted to put them 36-31 in the lead.

The pressure on the Hawks was relieved when Butler scored his second individual try. Breaking clear from deep in the Hawks’ half when challenged on the Exmouth 22 he kicked ahead to beat the cover to the touchdown which, with the conversion, put his side 43-31 in the lead.

With seven minutes remaining the visitors created their best backs move of the match which resulted in replacement Sam Conway breaking through to touch down. This took the score to 43-38 with yet another conversion by Meadows.

There was still drama to come when Exmouth, 40 metres out, had a break in the centre and the kick ahead was pursued over the Hawks line but a touchdown was denied the visitors by the assistant referee who observed that the winger involved was off-side.

This game with a basketball-like score line was a warning to the Hawks that their prospects in the league will not be good with the stronger teams to be played with skill levels of poor standard.

Henley Hawks: 15 James Comben (Louis Flynn, 69 mins), 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Tom Gardner, 12 Liam O’Neill, 11 Simon Perry, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson, 1 Brad Cook (George Primett, 46 mins), 2 Tom Emery (Stuart Philpott, 54 mins), 3 Ziana Montout-Alexis (George Primett, 61 mins), 4 David Clements (Charley Davey, 67 mins), 5 David Hyde, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Iwan Davies (George Lane, 62 mins), 8 Jake Albon (Clements, 80 mins).

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