Friday, 12 August 2022

Hawks safe from relegation after dominant performance

THIS was a game both sides were determined to win to avoid any possibility of relegation.

The Hawks had a dream start. They denied the Raiders any possession in the first quarter of the game with an exhibition of superb flowing rugby.

Showing speed and accuracy, the home side were blown apart in all aspects of the game during the opening period. In doing so they scored four tries, three converted, to lead 26-0 in the first 23 minutes.

This was created by dominating all phases of the game by using secure possession from line-outs, scrums and forward driving mauls, which was well used by their half backs.

Young Harry Burn, in his first team debut at scrum half, gave a swift accurate service to a maturing fly half Joe Butler. His fast flow of passes to his speedy backs left the Raiders defence dazed and bewildered.

The Hawks started the game playing into a strong breeze. Wisely and tactically, they did not give possession away by use of the boot (they were also much improved in collecting the ball from restarts).

The Hawks took the lead after 10 minutes when a powerful driving maul resulted in flanker Tom Hall touching down close to touch for an unconverted try. This became 12-0 when Scott White finished off an excellent handling movement with the Raiders defence spreadeagled.

This led to a period when the Hawks threatened to score every time they moved the ball. When they created an opportunity down the left again, the Raiders could not close a gap on their 22 after an incision by Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas which enabled Alan Awcock, supporting from fullback, to run in from the 22 virtually unopposed. The Hawks onslaught continued and a break by left wing Sam Portland set up pressure for David Hyde to make the score 23-0 after 26 minutes. A try bonus point already in the bag.

The Hawks’ almost complete domination of possession then began to fade as they drew breath and errors crept in with two penalties given away for not releasing the ball when tackled. For the last 15 minutes of the half, the Raiders put the Hawks on the back foot and exploited some fragility in the Hawks defence to score through flanker Jon Whittall to make the score 26-7 at half-time.

Henley now had the strong breeze in their backs but they continued to run the ball rather than kick for territory. They immediately increased their lead when Awcock scored his second try making the score 33-7 with the conversion.

The Raiders, however, now with possession scored a second try through hooker Joe Watson-Brooks. The lively Butler then caught the Raiders on the back foot by chipping cleverly over their cover and collecting the ball to score in a scramble over the try line.

He sadly had to retire with injury following this try, with Liam O’Neill adding the extras, taking the score to 40-14.

However, Worthing replacement Pete Cleveland was sent to the sin bin with a yellow card in the process of this score.

The Hawks took advantage of his absence to create a try, his second of the game by Scott White, which with another conversion by O’Neill saw the Hawks stretch their lead to 47-14 with 20 minutes of the game remaining.

The Raiders were now showing determination to register two further tries to earn a bonus point. This they did in the 61st and 75th minutes through Watson-Brooks and wing Finlay Coxon-Smith based on strong running breaks by centre Kiba Richards.

However, the Hawks perhaps fatigued by their earlier efforts were never in danger of losing, satisfied in the knowledge that they would be playing in Division 2 (South) next year and retaining their position of 10th in the league.

Henley Hawks: 15 Alan Awcock, 14 Simon Perry, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12. Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, 11 Sam Portland, 10 Joe Butler (Tom Haynes, 55 minutes), Harry Burn (James Stevenson Wright, 51 minutes), 1 Jim Hadfield (Ziana Montout-Alexis, 80 minutes), 2 Tom Embury (Stuart Philpott, 61 minutes), 3 Ziana Montout-Alexis (Dave Manning, 46 minutes), 4 Dave Clemens, 5 Jake Albon, 6 Tom Hall (Rob Bell, 61 minutes), 7 Scott White 8 David Hyde.

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