Friday, 19 August 2022

Second half rally helps Bulls claim derby win

A SPIRITED second-half performance from Henley Bulls ensured a fourth victory in a row at Old Bath Road although the

A SPIRITED second-half performance from Henley Bulls ensured a fourth victory in a row at Old Bath Road although the hosts made a good fist of matching the visitors during the first half.

Inaccuracy and handling errors cost the Bulls valuable attacking field position throughout much of the first period where they squandered five attacking line-outs and an attacking scrum before gaining the control and composure that would provide the platform for the victory.

The Titans opened the scoring when the left wing placed a grubber kick through the oncoming Bulls defence who failed to chase back in time to stop the hosts touching down on the left flank. The Bulls answered in short time as wing Adie Gillespie stepped inside of two remaining Titans defenders to score the first of his brace.

The Titans added a penalty on 20 minutes regaining the lead for a short time until the Bulls took control of their fortune with a cleverly worked maul from a line-out that saw hooker Rowan Fuller score to restore a 10-8 lead. This lasted only a short while as the referee punished the Bulls with a second penalty which the Titans converted. Throughout the first half much of the Bulls’ endeavour and dominance at scrum time and line-out was undone by their own hand and a mix-up in communication. This led to isolation in attack and the referee again punished the Bulls for thwarting the Titans counter illegally and this third successful penalty took them to a 14-10 half-time lead.

Captain James Winterbottom appeared to have found the right half time inspiration as the second half began with a penalty to the Bulls as a result of the pressure they built on Titans bringing them to within a point from the boot of Liam O’Neill.

Neil Baggett began to test the agility of the Titans midfield supported by Gavin Turner whose leadership in the midfield became audible as the game progressed.

Soon Gillespie showed clean heels with his second try of the afternoon and only a try-saving tackle from his opposite number robbed him of a potential hat-trick from a well-timed pass from O’Neill.

During this second half the contribution of the tight five, Steventon, Fuller and Penny during the early phases of play was a huge boon and stemmed from Andy Cannock’s safe hands at the restart.

Having reduced the error count and tightened up defensively the Bulls enjoyed a period of territorial advantage.

Tommy Haynes looked to be enjoying his move to flanker from fullback and it was his tackling and nuisance factor that kept the Titans pinned in with the help of Downing. Winterbottom inspired the comeback with several bursts of his own stretching the Titans defence to the full until Steve Drake darted over from short range to score the bonus try between the posts. The conversion went wide of the target.

It was left to Baggett to cap the performance with a fine try as he skipped, twisted and stepped his way to the line.

Henley Bulls: Steventon, Fuller (Thomas, 61 mins), Penny, Winterbottom, Cannock, Stembridge, Haynes, Downing, Drake, Baggett, Gillespie, Turner, Perry (Lillington, 55 mins), Sheehan (Rosier, 55 mins), O’Neill.

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