HENLEY HAWKS gave their large following of supporters plenty to cheer about last Saturday as they ran in four tries
HENLEY HAWKS gave their large following of supporters plenty to cheer about last Saturday as they ran in four tries to see off Shelford at Fenlands and set up a title decider against Worthing at Dry Leas in the last game of the season.
From previous games at Shelford, when they have won by narrow margins, the Hawks were prepared to meet a team which has revelled in a stubborn defence supporting a strong pack of forwards.
The Hawks attempted to play their free flowing game from the start with half backs Will Robinson and Luke Carter setting off handling movements and spreading the ball wide. They found it hard to break through and it needed a penalty by Robinson to give them the lead after 18 minutes.
When they turned over possession with one or two handling errors Shelford were able to launch attacks in the Hawks 22 and from one of these they equalised the score with a penalty by centre Richard Brady.
The pattern of the game continued in this vein with the Hawks already showing signs of superiority in the set scrums. However when again they failed to retain the ball the home side mounted their best attack of the game to pressurise the Hawks defence and they drove successively to allow centre Andrew Scott the room to squeeze over in the corner close touch to give Shelford a 8-3 advantage.
The Hawks immediately retaliated. Shelford’s fly-half, Adam White, under pressure, had a kick involuntarily blocked by Hawks’ Tom Allen.
His co-centre Martin Nutt was quick to seize the loose ball and although held up 10 metres from the home side’s line the Hawks pack were able to command the ensuing ruck and prop Dave Manning was driven over for a try under the posts which Robinson was able to convert to make the score 10-8 at half-time.
At the start of the second half the Hawks again had difficulty in commanding the game but kept Shelford at bay with a consuming defence. The match did turn in their favour when breaking away into the Shelford half the alert Luke Carter followed up to snatch the ball in a ruck on Shelford’s 10-metre line to race away to score an unconverted try to take the Hawks lead to 15-8 which was increased 10 minutes later to 18-8 by Robinson’d second penalty of the game.
Shelford launched a series of drives from five-metre line outs resulting from penalties. Try as they could to crack the Hawks’ defence for a period of five minutes they could not make the line. When they switched to the other side of the field they were boosted by the dismissal of Hawks’ Allen to the sin bin for an alleged offside at a ruck.
The effect of this was to see the Hawks become more determined and when they won a scrum under the shadow of their posts they scored the try of the match. From a ruck they preferred to run the ball than kick for relief when Robbie Stapley broke clear of a tackle.
Skipper Nutt started a movement involving six players who ran with speed supported by accurate well timed handling which resulted a try 80 metres distant by fullback Liam O’Neill who used his speed to make the score 25-8 with Robinson’s second conversion of the game.
Now in deep injury time and one man short, the Hawks were determined to get the fourth try for a bonus point. With the Shelford pack on their knees they drove the home side back on their line with Payne driving through four tackles. Not to be denied they, when awarded a penalty, took a scrum five metres out and drove the Shelford scrum back in full retreat for Payne to control the ball to secure the fourth try.
This victory put the Hawks just two points behind league leaders Worthing.
Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill (Neill Baggett, 79 mins), 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Tom Allen, 11 Richard Briggs, 10 Will Robinson, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford-Scott (Dai Maddocks, 64 mins), 2 Liam Dwyer, 3 Dave Manning (Jim Hadfield, 79 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 James Winterbottom (Josh McNally, 45 mins), 6 Matt Payne, 7 Will Woodward, 8 Robbie Stapley (Alex Penny, 77 mins).