Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Defence on top as Hawks ride out Guernsey storm

Defence on top as Hawks ride out Guernsey storm

HENLEY Hawks came away from their first ever clash at Guernsey with a 17-10 win in challenging conditions.

The weather in the Channel Islands last weekend was horrendous, even the Sunday morning mail flight couldn’t operate because of severe cross winds reaching 60mph at times.

After a rather bumpy flight on Saturday morning it was clear that this was not going to be a free-flowing game but one dominated by the conditions and who could get the upper hand in the forward battle.

The line-out was always going to be a lottery but after a shaky start the Hawks adapted reasonably well. Unfortunately the scrum was a different matter as the big Guernsey front row gave Henley some trouble resulting in numerous penalties.

Fortunately the Henley defence was again outstanding and forced numerous handling errors from the hosts. However, Henley were unable to make the most of these turnovers and despite continuous pressure were unable to breach Islanders line.

The visitors only had a Roddy Giles penalty to show for their efforts at half time, this despite two of the Hawks pack being sent to the sin bin for continuous breaches of the offside line. Indeed ,with Henley playing with the conditions in the first half, as the final play of the half Guernsey clearly thought they had won the game with cheers of delight greeting the half time whistle. This only served to fuel the half-time team talk.

Henley came out of the blocks in the second half with renewed enthusiasm and proceeded to dismantle the hosts’ back line and drove into the heart of their defence. This set up a number of attacking opportunities which the forwards duly obliged bringing a typical score for the hardworking Alex Bradley who crashed over from close to the posts after 10 minutes and Giles added the extras kicking into the teeth of the gale.

This gave the Hawks a bit of a breathing space and they now started to play some good rugby given the conditions. George Wood and Dan Barnes started to cut some good lines and create openings for the impressive Tom Hall to support and create problems for a tiring defence.

Despite the odd threat, the hosts were now looking a bit tired and frustrated that with the conditions in their favour they couldn’t make any inroads. The penalty count started to rise and Henley capitalised on this. They won a line-out close to the try line and worked a driving maul infield. Guernsey tried to halt this illegally and the patience of the Henley eight drove Scott White over and with Giles adding the extras Henley were now safe with a 17 point lead. However, if some of the passes had stuck after this it might have been more.

In the end a couple of errors allowed the home side to gain a foothold in the Henley 22 and they deservedly gained their bonus point with the final play of the game as their battling tight head prop was driven over.

In the end Henley will have been relieved to come away with a hard fought win which was built with belief, patience and some excellent defence. There are some areas to work on but the squad is still evolving and promises much.

Henley Hawks: Randle, Griffiths, Barnes, Andre, Wood, Giles, MacDougall, Cook, Emery, Manning, Goodison, Albon, Lunnon, Bradley, Hall. Replacements all used: Pieterson, Webb, Clarke, Primett, White, O’Neill.

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