Monday, 23 November 2020

Record crowd roar Henley Hawks to league title win

HENLEY HAWKS swept aside the challenge of Worthing Raiders to win promotion to National Division 1 as champions last Saturday

HENLEY HAWKS swept aside the challenge of Worthing Raiders to win promotion to National Division 1 as champions last Saturday before a record crowd, for Dry Leas and National 2 South, of 3,270.

The Hawks did this with the free-flowing rugby that they have played all season and with eight tries in this game had a record total of 185 for the season.

This win was, as with all their games which has seen them unbeaten at home all season, built on a magnificent team effort. The forwards showed increasing dominance in set pieces, mauls and loose play, providing the opportunities for what was the fastest back division in the league to run in tries from anywhere.

The opening phases of play were in the Hawks territory. The Raiders took an early lead when they scored a try by flanker Sam Hewitt from a ruck on the Hawks line which was converted by the reliable boot of scrum half Joe Govett.

The hosts immediately responded and after Martin Nutt had been stopped near the Worthing line the Hawks forwards drove for the line but Raiders prop Joe Burns attempted to halt this by pulling down in the maul. Referee Tom Davis awarded a penalty try which was converted by Will Robinson.

With a man advantage the Hawks were now presented with an opportunity to turn the game and were on the front foot. Immediately the Hawks half-backs used the opportunity to run the back at Worthing and the ball was moved wide to wing Jason Holmes to use his electric pace to outflank the cover defence. Robinson, who was in fine form in this game with a mature all round performance, converted — one of six conversions in the game — to put his side 14-7 ahead.

The Hawks took further advantage of Burns’ stay in the sin bin when a poor throw in from a line out by the visitors gave Robbie Stapley the opportunity to gain possession and dive over from five metres for his 18th try of the season.

With half-time approaching the Hawks were now keen to get a fourth try and bonus point before the break, something they have done frequently this season. After a Holmes run had not succeeded some fine back play, involving Tom Allen saw Xavier Andre put through to score the first of his hat-trick of tries. Previously Govett had kicked the first of two penalties to make the score at half-time 28-13.

Both teams started the second half with a man short as in injury time before the break Hawks’ Matt Payne and Worthing prop Pete Cleveland were sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes following a close encounter.

After Andre had been stopped close to the Raiders’ line the Hawks showed their authority in the resultant scrum in driving Hugo Milford-Scott over for an unconverted try.

Robinson’s kicking out of hand kept the visitors at bay and soon Allen was able to set up Andre for his second try which being unconverted made the score 38-13.

For the first time in the game Worthing were able to set up attacking positions when Hawks’ prop Milford-Scott was given a yellow card. Number eight Rob Smith was able to force himself over for a Worthing try which was converted by Govett to make the score 38-20. Robinson kept the Hawks’ score ticking over with a penalty but the Raiders were now showing some confidence to attack and the spearhead of this was scrum half Govett who made a couple of darting breaks. However, the second of these led to the best score of the game.

Govett made good progress towards the Hawks line and was five metres from it when he off-loaded an inside pass. This was snapped up by Holmes who took the opportunity to turn defence into attack and break in field to feed skipper Nutt who continued to make progress before setting Andre away to score his third try to complete a 90-metre movement to put the Hawks 48-20 ahead. Soon after Worthing scored through centre Luke Peters.

It was fitting that the Hawks had the last say. This they did when Robinson fed Allen in midfield with the Worthing defence not properly aligned. Allen started on one of his elusive darting runs leading the visitors astray before finishing on an arching run to touch down behind the posts for Robinson’s conversion to make the final score 55-27.

Henley Hawks: 15 Richard Briggs, 14 Xavier Andre (Neil Baggett, 74 mins), 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Tom Allen, 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 Will Robinson, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford Scott (Maddocks, 74 mins), 2 Nathan Morris, 3 Dave Manning (Jim Hadfield, 74 mins) 4 Dave Clements, 5, Josh McNally (James Winterbottom), 6 Matt Payne, 7 Liam Dwyer (Dai Maddocks, 61-74 mins), 8 Robbie Stapley (Will Woodward, 74 mins).

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