HENLEY HAWKS earned the right to at least a play-off game for promotion to National Division 1 with a decisive
HENLEY HAWKS earned the right to at least a play-off game for promotion to National Division 1 with a decisive victory over Dings Crusaders at Dry Leas on Saturday.
The hosts overwhelmed a tiring Dings side, particularly in the second half, when they registered 10 tries or more for the fifth time this season.
From the start the Hawks play was as bright as the sunny Spring conditions at Dry Leas with the fast well-presented ground made for their free flowing game.
The largest crowd of the season were cheering the scoring of the first try after just three minutes although directly from the kick-off Dave Clements broke through and it seemed that Matt Payne was going to score within a minute of the start but the scoring pass went awry.
The first try came when a handling movement was supported by fullback Liam O’Neill which gave the opportunity for scrum half Luke Carter to dance through the Dings defence to score his third try in the last three games and make the score 5-0.
The forwards created the next score. They had the edge on Dings in the set scrums and made the most of this in front of the posts when they shunned the opportunity to kick a penalty goal but then drove the visitors’ pack back over their line for number eight Robbie Stapley to touch down to make the score 12-0 with Will Robinson’s conversion.
Despite good off-loading by the Hawks as a team it was again the forwards who crossed the line after sustained pressure with James Winterbottom touching down to make it 17-0.
The Hawks’ dominance was upturned the first time that Dings ventured into their territory. This arose from a haphazard tap back from a line-out on halfway. The visitors, in possession, exploited this and swiftly moved the ball across their backs for left wing Steven Taylor to squeeze over in the far corner to make the score 17-5.
For the first time Dings secured possession to keep play in the Hawks’ half. This was turned over in dramatic fashion by Stapley who strode away from the Dings’ 25 metres line and proceeded to leave the visiting side dumbfounded, showing commendable speed with no cover in sight, until crossing the Dings line. Robinson converted to put the Hawks 24-5 ahead.
The Hawks regained their forward momentum. Now in the Dings’ 25-metre area they were not in the mood to build a lead through penalty goals. Matt Payne took a tapped penalty and linked with Carter who found winger Briggs marauding on his shoulder to take a scoring pass for a try converted by Robinson.
It seemed that the Hawks would have a 31-12 lead with half-time a couple of minutes away but this complacency was taken advantage of as Dings burst into attacking mode having got some decent possession for the first time in the game. In the space of two minutes either side of half-time the visitors scored two tries by Sam Cox and Robert Dempsey which with one conversion by Mark Woodrow saw their score advance to 17 points.
The second half started with the Hawks still on the back foot with their lead reduced to 31-17. It seemed that Dings were going to strike again within minutes of the restart when a passing movement from right to left found Taylor on an overlap within five metres of the try line. To the relief of the Hawks he could not hold the scoring pass which floated into touch.
The Hawks got their score moving again when Xavier Andre collected an off-load from Payne on the halfway line to sprint ahead and score.
The Hawks had now recovered to a comfortable 36-17 lead despite being a man short with Liam Dwyer in the sin bin. Tries followed at regular intervals with Dwyer returning to the game.
Payne was on hand to finish some good running by Briggs. which made the score 43-17 with O’Neill taking over as kicker from the replaced Robinson.
It seemed that Alex Penny, who had replaced Stapley was going to score the best try of the game when he collected a pass at pace and crashed through would-be tacklers for 30 metres before he was stopped two metres from the line.
It was hooker Nathan Morris who finished off a drive through a weakened Dings pack — both locks having been replaced — to score the first of a brace of tries.
The second was the last of the game when, by that time acting as a flanker he stole away from a set scrum near the posts for O’Neill to convert for the third time to make the score 62-17. Before this skipper Martin Nutt scored an individualistic try taking an inside pass from Tom Allen, now operating at number 10 in the absence of Robinson, near halfway, and then swerving through to score under the posts.
Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Tom Allen, 11 Richard Briggs (Will Woodward, 76 mins), 10 Will Robinson, (Neil Baggett, 62 mins), 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford-Scott (Dai Maddocks, 44 mins) 4 Dave Clements, 5 James Winterbottom, 6 Matt Payne, 7 Liam Dwyer, 8 Robbie Stapley (Alex Penny, 60 mins).