Monday, 08 August 2022

Hawks secure honours in clash of the champions

HENLEY HAWKS, winners of last season’s National Division 2 South title, got back to winning ways last Saturday as they

HENLEY HAWKS, winners of last season’s National Division 2 South title, got back to winning ways last Saturday as they defeated Hull Ionians, last season’s Division 2 North champions, by six tries to three at Dry Leas.

In a free-flowing game both sides ran with the ball at every opportunity, rarely kicking it away.

The game consisted of a lot of thrust and parry and the Hawks took time to settle against a side playing a similar type of game to their own. It was difficult for both sides to break through against committed tackling.

However the Hawks, after 15 minutes when putting the visitors’ line under pressure through the use of driving mauls, found a chink in the Ionian defensive wall through the skill and strength of number eight Robbie Stapley. James Comben converted with a clever drop goal after the ball had fallen off its tee.

The Hawks added a second try four minutes later when they took full advantage of a fumble by Hull scrum-half Adam Smith on their 22. Stapley seized upon this mistake to break away into the visitors’ half where he found Alan Awcock, and then Ant Brennan, in support working the ball infield to Josh McNally. McNally set away at full steam but was caught 15 metres from the line where he offloaded to Luke Carter who touched down under the posts for Comben to convert.

At this stage of the game the Hawks threatened to increase their 14-0 lead on three occasions but scoring passes were delivered without accuracy, finding touch rather than their supporting colleagues.

Hull were not slow to take advantage of hard-earned possession, especially from their accurate line-out throwing, and the Hawks tackling was tested but not breached.

The visitors did get on the scoreboard through a penalty from in front of the posts by fly-half Chris Reakes.

The Hawks struck back when Carter strode away from a line-out on the visitors’ 22 to find a huge gap in the Ionian defence which was exploited by Comben with a wide pass to skipper Martin Nutt to make the score 21-3 with a fine conversion by the fly-half.

The Hawks continued on the offensive when a dancing run by fullback Tom Allen led to a penalty under the shadow of the posts. The ever alert Stapley took the moment to tap and go and finding Comben gave him chance to throw a pass approaching half of the width of the pitch to left wing Awcock who was able to cross for a try unopposed. This, with Comben’s conversion, gave the Hawks a 28-3 half-time.

The second half was approached with renewed vigour by the Hull side whilst the Hawks’ tendency to take a siesta immediately after the break was once again evident. The result was that the Ionians scored 12 points in the space of four minutes with centre Richard Fletcher breaking through to score a converted try under the posts after good approach work and prop David Laverick crashed over to complete a move started on half-way after the Hawks had lost a line-out from their own throw.

With such reversals and a lively Hull side growing in confidence it seemed that the game may turn against the Hawks and the next score was going to be important.

This went to the Hawks thanks to the ability of scrum-half Carter who made a devastating break on the blind side from a scrum on half way with the Ionian back row outpaced so that he was able to score without a hand being laid on him. This score made it difficult for the Hull side to sway the final result but they were not prepared to let the Hawks dominate and they tested their defence with a period of all out attack by maul, ruck or hard running by their backs.

When the pressure subsided the home side re-launched their attacks on the back of a now dominant set scrum. The reward was a try for lock Dave Clements who battled over the line shrugging off all attempts to stop him. This try was converted by Liam O’Neill with a spiralling swerving kick from close to touch.

The visitors had the last word for in a determined thrust for the line as number eight Dan Hague touched down in the corner with the last move of the game.

Henley Hawks: 15 Tom Allen, 14 Liam O’Neill, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Danny Wells (Tom Haynes, 73 mins), 11 Alan Awcock, 10 James Comben (Neil Baggett, 61 mins), 9 Luke Carter, 1 Dai Maddocks (James Hadfield, 57 mins), 2 Ant Brennan, 3 Alex Penny (Hugo Milford-Scott, 57 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Josh McNally (Will Woodward, 57 mins), 6 Ryan Long, 7 Liam Dwyer, 8 Robbie Stapley.

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