HENLEY HAWKS’ biggest ever league victory over local rivals Chinnor last Saturday kept them on track for promotion to National
HENLEY HAWKS’ biggest ever league victory over local rivals Chinnor last Saturday kept them on track for promotion to National Division 1 and in doing so saw the visitors pass the 1,000 points mark for the season, writes Noel Armstead.
On a cold afternoon both sides were happy to play open rugby. At the beginning of the game Chinnor, with the wind in their backs, had the majority of possession and much of the play was in the Hawks half.
The visitors found it difficult to secure a foothold in the Chinnor half, giving away penalties for offside and playing the ball on the ground in the rucks. This led to them giving away a penalty from in front of the posts which Chinnor fly half Sam Angell was able to convert to put his side 3-0 up after five minutes.
The Hawks responded but were handicapped by losing their own line-outs on two occasions and were later in the half troubled by crooked throws.
Chinnor gave away a penalty which Will Robinson converted into the wind to equalise. The ding-dong nature of the game continued with Angell putting Chinnor back into the lead with a second penalty.
The Hawks retaliated immediately by some surging play down the left. As they drove towards the Chinnor line in their 22 they moved the ball on the blind side where Tom Allen, up from fullback, made a sidestepping run to cross near the corner which was too wide in the wind for Robinson’s attempted conversion.
Although Chinnor attempted to break the Hawks defence, which was sound all afternoon, they failed and when the ball was turned over Henley’s scrum half Luke Carter turned the game in their favour when he left the home pack stranded with a burst down the middle of the park. When Carter reached the halfway he found left wing Jonah Holmes with a long pass to the wing who had pace a plenty to beat the cover and run in unopposed under the posts for Robinson to convert and stretch the Hawks’ lead to 15-6.
Chinnor came back on the attack and surrendering possession by a clearance kick from deep the Hawks gave them the opportunity for wing Tristan Corpe to test their defence with effective use of his speed. Once more the Hawks defence was up to the challenge but eventually only gave way another penalty to feed Angell’s accurate boot.
As half-time approached with the score at 15-9 the Hawks pack built pressure down the left and the Chinnor defence was slow to react and allowed man-of-the-match Holmes room to take advange of a good feed from Carter to cross almost unopposed. The wind was the winner as far as Robinson’s kick was concerned but the Hawks had the satisfaction of a 20-9 lead at the break.
The Hawks started the second half with a blistering period of pressure on the Chinnor line after they had failed to deal effectively with the restart kick.
Eight phases of play saw them hammering away at the Chinnor line either by forward drives or surging runs by their backs . Eventually they broke the Chinnor defence when from good control at a scrum Carter was given enough room to squeeze over for a try which with Robinson’s conversion made the score 27-9.
The game was now in the Hawks’ grasp and there were a number of promising attacks including two storming breaks in midfield by flanker Will Woodward. Holmes, with two tries to his credit, was denied a third with his speed and good line of running when a break by Robinson from half way was turned into a kick and chase when the wing was unmarked with no cover in sight. He eventually scored his third when a fine handling move by the backs was taken up by Robinson who held up the ball to create a scoring pass to Holmes.
Holmes was to finish with four when Richard Briggs, released from the replacements bench, burst with a jinking run which resulted in a zig-zag course and ended with a passing movement down the left-hand corner where he again outpaced the defence.
Henley Hawks: 15 Tom Allen, 14 Xavier Andre (Richard Briggs, 62 mins), 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Danny Wells, 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 Will Robinson, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford Scott (Dai Maddocks, 75 mins), 2 Liam Dwyer, 3 Dave Manning (Jim Hadfield, 75 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Josh McNally (James Winterbottom, 75 mins), 6 Matt Payne (Nathan Morris, 75 mins), 7 Will Woodward, 8 Robbie Stapley.