Henley Hawks 48, Old Elthamians 19
HENLEY HAWKS maintained their unbeaten record and moved six points clear of their nearest rivals at the top of Division 2 South on Saturday.
In winning 48-19 the Hawks recorded their biggest margin of victory to date scoring seven tries in the process.
The hosts showed greater pace in their backs than Old Elthamians. After a sluggish start they conceded two tries in the first 20 minutes although they took an early lead, 7-0, in the first five minutes when skipper Dave Clements was driven over from a catch and drive on the five metre line which fly-half Will Robinson converted.
The significance of this score was the secure catch in the line out, by Oscar Hirskyj- Douglas, at the front of the line where the Hawks have been less than competent this season, and the visitors inability to hold their surge which was a feature for much of the game.
The Hawks were not able to take advantage of this early lead as the visitors were soon commanding possession and demonstrating they could move the ball effectively amongst their backs. This led to their top scoring wing John Webber squeezing over in the right hand corner for a try.
This set the Hawks back on their heels and they responded by scoring from a Robinson penalty after they established a counter attack in the visitors 22.
The Hawks were further warned of the visitors ability to score tries when they returned to the hosts 22 and from a scrum 20 metres out worked the ball down the left where fly-half Rob White was able to glide through a shadow tackle to touch down for Tom White to convert to leave the Hawks 12-10 down 20 minutes into the game.
The Hawks were stung by this reverse and their forwards began to use the authority to put the visitors in retreat. Robinson used possession gained to put in a wide pass, which he used effectively in the Hawks attacks, to enable Piers OConor to use his speed to sweep over for a try.
The Hawks were finding it difficult to play cohesively but centre George Eastwell, with good foot work, began to make the visitors defence look vulnerable and made some inroads in combination with fellow centre Ed Yarnton. Fred Pierrepoint was put clear to score a converted try which made the score 22-12.
The Hawks continued to dominate from the start of the second half and increased their score to 29 points immediately after the restart when Yarnton slipped a pass from a half break for OConor again to use his pace to cross for another converted try.
This was almost repeated almost immediately but faulty handling frustrated this attack so the score remained at 29-12. The Hawks were also guilty of not exploiting more their pace by ignoring overlaps and dying with the ball in hand when the visitors defence was fully stretched.
The Hawks were showing all round dominance at this stage and their next score came when the visitors eight collapsed successive scrums as the Hawks drove for the line which led to referee Shane Lewis awarding a penalty try which Robinson converted on his way to a match total of 13 points.
Within a minute the forwards created a further try with a catch and drive from a line out which completed a brace for Clements.
With the score at 41-12 the Hawks decided to introduce replacements for the last quarter of the game. In doing so they surrendered the dominance they had enjoyed in the set pieces which was typified when a scrum was splintered in a manner they had handed out to the visitors previously.
With renewed confidence the visitors constructed a good try from running and handling at some pace which resulted in a score by Alex Tompkins, converted by White.
Having scored three tries the visitors were now thrusting forward for a fourth and a valuable bonus point but Robinson repelled attacks with good defensive kicking.
With play now opening up a loose situation was exploited by Pierrepoint who used his direct style of running to put the Hawks 48-19 ahead with Robinsons last conversion of the game, a lead which they held to deny the visitors a bonus point.
Henley Hawks: 15 Piers OConor, 14 Fred Pierrepoint, 13 Ed Yarnton, 12 Gordon Eastwell (Xavier Andre, 64 mins), 11 Jake Randall, 10 Will Robinson, 9 Connor Murphy, 1 Dave Manning, 2 Nathan Taylor (George Edgson, 59 mins), 3 James Litchfield (Tim Coghlan, 56 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Will Woodward (Matt Payne, 59 mins), 6 Oscar Hirskyj- Douglas, 7 Ryan Newman (Tom Hall, 56 mins), 8 Robbie Stapley.