Thursday, 18 August 2022

Forwards dominate as Hawks turn match around in high-scoring clash

HENLEY HAWKS, in a much improved performance, fought back from a 12 point deficit to beat

HENLEY HAWKS, in a much improved performance, fought back from a 12 point deficit to beat Bury St Edmunds in a high scoring, pulsating encounter at Dry Leas on Saturday.

More importantly, they showed themselves and their supporters a togetherness, commitment and enthusiasm that was missing in their last match.

It was the forwards who set up the victory, dominating the set scrums and loose play, especially in the second half.

The opening exchanges were frantic and even boiled over on one occasion and it was the visitors who broke the deadlock after 10 minutes. Wing forward Sean Stapleton picked up from a ruck and found no one in front of him and so ran 20 metres to score unopposed. Fullback Lyle converted.

The Hawks replied immediately with a try from fullback Tom Parton who finished off a good handling move to score in the corner.

The visitors extended their lead with a Lyle penalty before the Hawks then took the lead. Emery disrupted a Bury defensive line out allowing Dave Hyde to break and feed Bradley Cook who crashed over near the posts. George Jackson converted.

The front row of Bradley Cook, Tom Emery and Barnaby Abdale-Weir continued their good work of recent weeks, excelling in the scrum, and with skipper Dave Clements and Dave Hyde prominent in the loose play, the Hawks looked good value for their 12-10 lead.

However, as in recent weeks, a lack of concentration then struck the Hawks and two converted tries were conceded before half time. Lyle finished a break from scrum half Anderson-Brown despite a Henley protest for obstruction and this was quickly followed by Sam Sterling cutting through some poor Hawks tackling to score. Lyle converted both tries to give the visitors a 24-12 lead. Jackson then kicked a penalty for the Hawks just before half-time.

In complete contrast to last week’s game against Barnes, the Hawks came out after the break with renewed intent.

The now totally dominant Henley scrum won a penalty and from the resulting line-out, the visitors illegally halted the Hawks drive and a penalty try was awarded which Jackson converted.

All this work seemed to be undone when the visitors, who seemed to be going nowhere in attack, again broke some weak tackling and Chris Lord easily ran in from 35 metres. The conversion was missed but the visitors now led by seven points.

Henley continued to be aggressive and positive, especially at the breakdown with Connor Morrison and Tom Hall now in charge. With another great scrum and penalty awarded, the Hawks applied great pressure on the Bury line and eventually prop Nick Bingham was shown the yellow card for his side’s constant infringing.

The Hawks sensed victory and another driving line-out resulted in Tom Emery crashing over, supported by the whole pack. Jackson converted to level the scores.

The driving line-out is proving to be a profitable move for the Hawks and they used it again four minutes later following another scrum penalty. The drive was stopped just short of the line but winger Liam O’Neill took the ball and scored unopposed on the blind side. Jackson again converted.

It was the visitors who were now looking a bit shell shocked and after a long period of Henley pressure, Tom Parton scored his second try with 10 minutes to go to seemingly put the Hawks out of reach at 41-29.

Bury St Edmunds, to their credit, scored their fifth try just before the end with Lyle converting but the Hawks’ faithful didn’t have to wait too long for the final whistle to end a highly entertaining game.

Henley Hawks: 15 T Parton, 14 S Perry (J Stevenson-Wright, 10 mins), 13 T Gardner (I Davies, 58 mins), 12 J Butler, 11 L O’Neill, 10 J Comben, 9 G Jackson, 8 D Hyde, 7 C Morrison, 6 T Hall, 5 J Albon, 4 D Clements, 3 B Abdale-Weir (Z Montout-Alexis, 50 mins), 2 T Emery, 1 B Cook. Replacements not used: G Lane, S White.

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