HENLEY HAWKS continued in their impressive try-scoring form when they blew a young Clifton side apart with a first-half display
HENLEY HAWKS continued in their impressive try-scoring form when they blew a young Clifton side apart with a first-half display of precision rugby against an icy blast of wind last Saturday.
Such was their pre-eminence that they scored a try in the first minute through wing Xavier Andre who demonstrated that his exciting form of the previous game against Southend, when he scored four tries, was far from illusory. Andre followed this with a further try before half-time when he again outpaced an almost static Clifton defence.
That he was able to do so was not only due to his speed but also to the space created by the swift handling and accurate distribution of the Hawks’ half backs, Tom Allen (fly half) and Luke Carter (scrum half).
As the game developed the Hawks backs were increasingly able to run on to the ball which left the Clifton backs reeling.
This enabled centre Danny Wells to score the Hawks’ third try and the lively Carter their fourth. This was all within the first 20 minutes of the game so that they had, by then, already pocketed a bonus point.
The value of each try was increased from five points to seven by the accurate place kicking of Wells who carried on where he left off the previous week by converting these tries and three more before the end of the game with a 100 per cent success rate. Although Clifton had sneaked in a penalty goal by Ben Roberts in the midst of this deluge of tries on a rare visit to Henley territory, they succumbed to two further tries before half-time.
In scoring these the Hawks’ forwards contributed to their dominance in ruling the roost in every aspect of their play. Virtually every scrum witnessed the home pack in retreat with possession turned over on their put-in on a number of occasions.
The driving mauling of their eight had Clifton in retreat with their consuming tackling creating turnovers. The whole pack contributed to this dominance with Matt Payne as influential as usual but lock Josh McNally crunched would be tackles and thrusting forward on every possible occasion got his reward before the break with his first try of the season. Ryan Newman, who frequently seizes opportunities to earn possession, added the last try of the half.
With the score standing at 42-3 in the Hawks’ favour at half-time an 80 point Hawks total looked a possibility. However, this did not happen as Clifton scored three tries and lost the second period 21-15 as they could not majorise their touchdowns.
The hosts came into the game not only because they played with much more vigour, tackled better and spoiled more effectively but also the Hawks lost their drive and rhythm.
This was evident in the first five minutes of the re-start. Instead of finding space to develop handling moves at pace they crowded each other and were inclined to die with the ball in hand. Compared with the first half they became static and sterile in their attacking moves.
This was not entirely due to the introduction of all five of their bench replacements in one swoop four minutes into the second half. In contrast to the start of the game there was no scoring in the first 15 minutes of the second 40.
Eventually they got the ball moving and centre Neill Baggett made a slicing run to touch down for Wells to make his last conversion of the game.
The Hawks now found that they could not control possession and Clifton took advantage of some loose play down the right for their top scorer Will Pomphrey to use his pace to touch down a loose ball in a scramble over the Hawks’ line.
The Hawks were now relying on their forwards to create scoring opportunities and when anchored near the home line they drove the Clifton pack back in a set scrum with a controlled heel for number eight Rob Stapley to touch down. This was converted by new signing Will Robinson (fly half) who possesses a cultured left boot. Robinson did the same when on full time referee Martin Cooper awarded the Hawks a penalty try when Clifton handled in a ruck as they retreated close to their line.
Before this Clifton scored two tries through scrum half Callum Brearly and fullback Roberts as the Hawks’ defence became disorganised under the first pressure they had experienced in the game.
Henley Hawks: 15 Martin Nutt, 14 Xavier Andre (Liam O’Neill, 44 mins), 13 Neil Baggett, 12 Danny Wells, 11 Richard Briggs, 10 Tom Allen (Will Robinson, 44 mins), 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford Scott, 2 Liam Dwyer (Nick Gardner, 44 mins), 3 Dave Manning (Jim Hadfield, 44 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Josh McNally, 6 Matt Payne (Will Woodward, 44 mins), 7 Ryan Newman, 8 Robbie Stapley.