Saturday, 05 December 2020

Foresters rally stuns visitors who battle back for a share of spoils

HENLEY HAWKS moved up to eighth place in National Division 1 in a see-saw match at Cinderford on Saturday.

HENLEY HAWKS moved up to eighth place in National Division 1 in a see-saw match at Cinderford on Saturday.

With the Hawks leading 29-10 at half-time it appeared that the visitors would consolidate their lead in the second half.

However, the home side came out of the blocks after the break to launch attacks based on a monopoly of possession backed by a spirit to win, which brushed a Henley side aside as the Foresters scored three converted tries.

This gave the hosts the lead for the first time in the game and with 15 minutes of the match remaining it looked as if the Hawks would lose out.

The Hawks had started the game with almost 100 per cent possession. They used this to launch wave after wave of attacks in their usual style of keeping the ball in hand through backs and forwards.

Despite phase after phase they were rebuffed by strong effective tackling although fullback Liam O’Neill had a 50 metre slicing run through to the Cinderford 10 metre line which ended when he could not find support.

A penalty from in front of the posts by James Comben was the only score in the first 10 minutes until effective control of a scrum gave former Cinderford player Luke Carter the chance to break away down the blind side before the Foresters had realised that the scrum-half had got away. Comben’s conversion gave the Hawks a 10-0 lead and the impression that the visitors were going to rule the roost.

They were quickly disillusioned for in their first foray into the Hawks 22 Cinderford scrum-half Dan Pointon made it tit-for-tat with a mirror of Carter’s score. Cinderford’s Michael Wilcox missed the conversion.

The Hawks increased their lead through an opportunist try by debutant Jaryd Robinson who at pace down the left gathered a pass adroitly to stretch over the line for an unconverted try as Comben’s conversion attempt unluckily hit one of the posts.

Cinderford were now beginning to show the ammunition they had in their locker with elusive running and this caught the Hawks napping when Wilcox outwitted their defence with some sparkling foot work but could not majorise his score so the Hawks had a 15-10 lead.

The forward clashes had produced parity in line-out and scrum but it was in driving mauls that the Hawks had more than the edge. This they profitably demonstrated when they drove 20 metres from a line-out for loose head prop Hugo Milford-Scott to be awarded the touchdown making the score 22-10.

With half-time approaching the Hawks scored their fourth try to secure a bonus point. This came out of the blue for the Foresters were developing a promising movement amongst their back when an alert Comben stepped in to intercept. The try line for him was 75 metres away but as he entered the Cinderford 22 the covering defence started to close in. To his relief he found flanker Ryan Long had arrived on his shoulder to collect his well judged off-load to ensure his effort was not in vain as the Hawks took a 29-10 half-time lead. As has become a habit this season the Hawks restarted the game in lethargic mood with concentration elsewhere.

Cinderford’s restart kick was knocked on by prop Milford-Scott and this immediately put the home side, full of determination, in the box seat to turn the tables on a slightly complacent Hawks side.

In the space of 15 minutes the hosts scored three converted tries, two of these by their backs, wing Chris Hawks and a second for Wilcox. The third by flanker George Mills gave the Hawks some of their own medicine from a drive under the posts after the Hawks’ possession had previously been turned over three times. Wilcox shortly afterwards consolidated their two point lead with a 45 metre penalty.

The Hawks, shell shocked, still had some fight left in them. They were not relying on their backs who had found it difficult to stretch their opponents but they now used the driving maul which had been their most effective form of attack in the game.

They made progress down the right towards the Foresters’ line when from the midst of the maul the Hawks’ talisman Robbie Stapley, who had worked so hard in attack and defence throughout the game, emerged as a lone figure to touch down to equal the score at 34-34. Comben again had the mortification of seeing his conversion attempt to win the game hit the wood work.

At the end of the day both sides had the satisfaction of earning three league points in a match that had created 10 tries.

Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill, 14 Neil Baggett, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Charles Incledon, 11 Jaryd Robinson, 10 James Comben, 9 Luke Carter (Mark Bruce, 75 mins), 1 Hugo Milford-Scott, 2 Ant Brennan (Will Woodward, 65 mins), 3 Alex Penny, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Josh McNally, 6 Liam Dwyer, 7 Ryan Long, 8 Robbie Stapley (Tommy Haynes, 69 mins).

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