RICHMOND leapfrogged the Hawks in a vital National Division 1 relegation battle on Saturday at the Athletic Ground.
In previous season the Hakws have done well at Richmond, winning on their last two visits while also beating the Surrey-based at Dry Leas earlier in the season. The Hawks started and finished well but the rest of the game went to the hosts.
The Hawks dominated the first five minutes of the game denying Richmond possession and moving the ball well amongst their backs. They crossed the home sides line after a flowing handling movement from right to left gave room for Martin Nutt on the left wing to squeeze in at the corner. However, the assistant referee judged that the winger had put a foot in touch.
All was not lost as referee Fergus Kirby had been playing advantage for off side and James Comben converted despite the prevailing gusty wind.
Sadly for the Hawks the game went away from them after this and not helped by a plethora of penalties against them they found it difficult to gain any quality possession and this was true in the set scrums, line outs and rucks.
Richmonds straight hard running play tested the Hawks fragile defence. The hosts equalised and then went ahead 6-3 after 14 minutes through two penalties by fly-half Rob Kirby. They then tested the Hawks in their own 22 metre territory and after 18 minutes the bustling centre Martin Freeman broke the visitors defence to touch down close to the posts giving Kirby an easy conversion.
The Hawks then received a double blow when the versatile Liam Dwyer, playing as hooker, and new signing Gus Jones were both forced to retire with ankle and head injuries. The Hawks did not concede further points before half-time which was taken with them trailing 13-3.
Richmond did not take advantage of their domination of possession of territory at this stage and the Hawks promised to close the gap when Comben caught them unprepared when he tapped a penalty on the Hawks 10 metrel line and fed his half-back partner Luke Carter who ran clear for 40 metres before his pass went astray.
Richmond started the second half with renewed purpose and scored two tries in 10 minutes which determined the outcome of the game.
Within a minute they drove from a line out 10 metres from the Hawks line and long striding wing Rob Alexander used his strength to score. Ten minutes later they took a tapped penalty on the Hawks 22, wing Will Browne in space was too quick for the Hawks cover and scored with Kirby converted to put the hosts 25-3 up.
The prospect of such a margin of defeat spurred the Hawks to play their best rugby of the game. They got some worthwhile possession and their forwards began to take the game to Richmond for the first time and run the last quarter of the game.
This pressure led to flanker JP Attlee being awarded a yellow card for coming into the ruck on the wrong side. Until these last stages the Hawks had only threatened the Richmond defence through driving mauls.
In the dying moments the ball was worked to Liam ONeill on the right wing. With space to use his speed he burst through a tackle 40 metres from the line to touch down near to the posts for him to add the points for the conversion to make the final score 25-10.
Henley Hawks: 15 Ed Yarton, 14 Andre Xavier, 13 Liam ONeill, 12 Danny Wells, 11 Martin Nutt, 10 James Comben (Tom Allen, 65 mins), 9 Luke Carter, 1 Dai Maddocks (James Hadfield, 60 mins), 2 Liam Dwyer (Ant Brennan, 21 mins), 3 Dave Manning, 4 Josh McNally, 5 Will Woodward (Ben Ashmore, 69 mins), 6 Gus Jones (Luke Allen, 34 mins), 7 Ryan Newman, 8 Ryan Long.