SOUTHEND remained defiant to the end despite suffering a brutal overhauling by the Bulls’ experienced pack at Dry Leas in
SOUTHEND remained defiant to the end despite suffering a brutal overhauling by the Bulls’ experienced pack at Dry Leas in the Shield last Saturday in a match played in difficult conditions.
Whilst several scoring passes missed their final target throughout the game, the Bulls still amassed a 67-point tally and held Southend to a singular penalty in the first half.
Loose-head prop Sam Steventon’s tight defence was outstanding against the threat of Southend’s industrious hooker and fly half, who provided much of the visitors’ threat close to the breakdown.
Liam O’Neill opened the Bulls account with a score on the right flank as the Henley pack weaved their way up field off-loading to supporting runners and forcing Southend to defend too narrowly as centre Gavin Turner attracted much of the midfield defensive focus.
Andy Downing returned to action with an inspiring performance at number eight allied to the work of Crossland and Stembridge who between them contributed three tries. Crossland steered a maul to the line to score whilst Stembridge’s angled run onto a Gavin Turner pass towards the posts for his first try and pin balling run through Southend’s last-ditch defence led to his second. Adie Gillespie broke through to score a classic winger’s try and throughout the game proved a match for anything he met coming towards him with strength and guile.
Scrum half Steve Drake scored a brace of tries with some clever darting attacks. In worsening conditions Drake and Adam Lubbock continued to act as providers for Simon Perry to rack up a hat-trick of tries, one of which saw him completely outflank the defence from his inside centre position to score under the posts.
Although the Bulls were proving difficult to stop they squandered several opportunities through inaccurate or badly timed passes but captain Winterbottom managed to reinforce a desire to adapt to conditions in the last 20 minutes when O’Neill added to his tally with a run in and the structured forward display of the first half returned.
The final 20 minutes was Southend’s best but the Bulls defence remained unbreached.