Friday, 19 August 2022

First-half onslaught gives Henley Bulls victory at Hertford

RETURNING to league action following the Christmas break, the Bulls looked the sharper and more purposeful of the two teams

RETURNING to league action following the Christmas break, the Bulls looked the sharper and more purposeful of the two teams for much of the opening 40 minutes of this Shield encounter at Hoe Lane last Saturday.

A strong cross-wind blew three of Steve Drake’s conversion way off course as he attempted to drill home a four-try first-half onslaught by the Bulls.

Although the Bulls enjoyed possession from a dominant line-out it was the scrum in which the pack pressed the advantage for much of the game until Hertford’s injury list forced the set piece to become a non-contest.

A driving maul was marshalled by Drake with Ben Ashmore fish-tailing his way to the line behind an organised pack effort for the opening score which Drake converted as the ball swung from right to left in the wind. A second try came from a scrum forced by a break by Simon Perry as Rupert Crossland picked up from the base of the set-piece and drove hard at the blind-side defence from 30 metres, feeding his support who threaded a wide pass for Ryan Sheehan to display his pace on the right flank.

Jevon Marsh scored a fine individual try following several previous line-breaks when he stepped and parried his way to the line from well inside his own half leaving a trail of Hertford players in his wake to make the score 17-0.

It was the third try that sparked a response from Hertford who made clean possession difficult to come by as they harried and rucked with venom, slowing possession for the Bulls whose frustration began to show giving away several penalties in an attempt to speed up delivery to Drake.

A short penalty found a Hertford lock whose angular attack caught the Bulls defence wanting for the first time in the game and brought the score back to 17-7.

In response the Bulls pressed into Hertford territory once more when Tommy Haynes returned a Hertford kick with interest, splicing open the Hertford defence.

A wide ruck on the left was fed behind a decoy forward thrust to Adam Lubbock who beat two tackles before lifting a scoring pass to Sheehan for his second try.

In the second half Henley Bulls failed to add to the score having been frustrated by a much more defiant Hertford defence and some further frustration at the breakdown. As in the first half, a similar penalty awarded to Hertford led to a repeat of the first-half Hertford try although in open play the Bulls defence played well and a 10-minute spell in the sin-bin for Ed Stembridge ensured Hertford fought hard to catch the visitors.

Any dominance at the set piece was nullified as the scrum became a non-contest with 12 minutes remaining as Hertford lost their remaining front row to injury.

Dylan Teasdale broke away twice down his left flank only to be stopped short of his target by Hertford’s determined tackling.

Henley Bulls: Sam Steventon, Warren Higgins (Ed Stembridge, 53 mins), Alex Penny (Andy Cannock, 72 mins), James Winterbottom, Andy Downing, Ben Asmore, Emeka Ilogu, Rupert Crossland, Steve Drake, Adam Lubbock, Dylan Teasdale (Tom Inglis, 70 mins), Jevon March, Simon Perry, Ryan Sheehan (Chris Graham, 70 mins), Tommy Haynes.

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