HENLEY HAWKS ran in five tries to keep their unbeaten record intact and in the process earned a bonus point for the third consecutive match at Dry Leas on Saturday.
When the hosts opened the scoring with a try by lively scrum-half Connor Murphy after just two minutes, plus a conversion by Will Robinson to go 7-0 up, the Henley faithful had visions of a repeat of the 87-point trouncing that they gave the seasiders when the two sides last met two years ago. However, this was not to be repeated although they were well on top for the first 20 minutes.
The hosts moved the ball with a swift service from a dominant scrum through scrum-half Murphy and lightning distribution by Robinson.
It was the forwards that were the source of two further tries in the first 25 minutes. Lock Matt Payne had already created the opportunity for Murphy to open the scoring by peeling away from a line out within 10 metres of the Southend line. He and the pack created the second try with a controlled drive down the right and he finished the move off to make the score 12-0 after 12 minutes. Robinsons conversion attempt was deflected off an upright.
At this stage of the game the Hawks were well in control of the set scrums putting the Southend eight in retreat more often and not.
With this advantage Robinson was able to launch an attack after a set scrum but this did not lead to a score as the movement broke down when a subsequent pass went astray. Another forward 30 metre drive led to flanker Andy Newman forcing his way over for a try which Robinson converted.
The Hawks led 19-6 at half-tim as the only further scoring before the break came from two penalties by Southend centre Bradley Burr.
Hawks fullback Tom Allen had an exciting run of 40 metres and Robbie Stapley led a forward charge of some thirty metres.
Robinson relieved the pressure of any Southend attacks with several raking kicks, some of which could have been turned into attacking opportunities but these were not pursued.
The fly-half also made an exciting swerving run deep into the Southend 22 but was stopped short of the try line.
The Hawks found it difficult to sustain attacks as referee Chris Ridley appeared to be advised by his assistants on the touch line of repeated off side offences
The second half found the Hawks still struggling to launch sustained attacks . Centres Ed Yarnton and Simon Perry made several incursions which came to nothing. It was not until the second half was 20 minutes old that they could engineer another score although a dash for the line by Xavier Andre ended with the right wing being forced into touch a few metres from the corner.
The Hawks found it difficult to keep up sustained attacks as there was at this stage a break down in communication between their front row and the referee as to the correct way to scrummage which gave Southend relief.
The Hawks mounted their best move of the game when the ball was swiftly moved along their back line and replacement fullback Piiers OConor found unmarked left wing Lloyd Owen with a looping wide pass for him to score and make it 24-6.
Southend at no time during the game were able to mount any pressure on the Hawks line but they scored a try out of the blue when a kick ahead down the right wing was not gathered by the hosts and some loose hacking gave replacement Lester Pollard the opportunity to touchdown a bouncing ball. Burrs conversion made the score 24-13.
The Hawks were to have the last word when a ball went loose as the visitors were looking to advance in the Hawks 10 metres area. This was seized upon by the alert Murphy who sprinted away into the Southends half and 30 metres into it gave a neat inside pass to number six Tom Hall who raced away 25 metres to score his fourth try of the season which with Robinsons conversion brought the final score to 31-13.
Henley Hawks : 15 Tom Allen (Piers OConor, 51 mins), 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Simon Perry (Dan Barnes 69 mins), 12 Ed Yarnton, 11 Lloyd Owen, 10 Will Robinson, 9 Connor Murphy, 1 Tom West (Dave Manning, 76 mins), 2 Nathan Taylor (George Edgson, 65-76 mins), 3 Dave Manning (Hugo Milford Scott, 55 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Matt Payne (Will Woodward, 57 mins), 6 Tom Hall, 7 Ryan Newman, 8 Robbie Stapley ( Payne, 76 mins).