Thursday, 11 August 2022

O’Neill bags brace as side see off Richmond challenge

LIAM O’NEILL bagged a try in each half to help his side pick up their third National Division 1 win

LIAM O’NEILL bagged a try in each half to help his side pick up their third National Division 1 win of the season against Richmond at Dry Leas last Saturday.

For the first 40 minutes the game ebbed and flowed with, for much of it, neither side able to secure possession for long enough periods to drive home any advantage gained. This was because each side tackled efficiently enough to keep the other at bay. There was also a lack of attacking ideas with the handling and running stereotyped.

The Hawks again showed that in their driving mauls they could put Richmond on the back foot and when they secured the ball moving forward they exploited the blind side of a maul 15 metres from the Richmond line to feed the fast approaching O’Neill to adroitly catch a speculative pass to score a try fairly close to touch. James Comben converted from close to touch.

The game, which had not showed any great handling skills livened up when Richmond scored within nine minutes in a similar fashion to what the Hawks had achieved in the prelude to their try with wing Callum Wilson dashing in after a forward drive. However Richmond’s Tom Platt could not add the two extra points.

Richmond did press hard to increase their score as half-time approached but the Hawks defence was strong enough to keep them out and the tackle count of hooker Ant Brennan was a feature.

Comben’s attempt to give them a bigger margin from a long distance penalty on the half-time whistle proved that it was outside his range.

The second half started with speculation that the Hawks’ experience in recent matches of surrendering half-time scoring advantages was going to continue. This was soon dispelled when lock Dave Clements caught the restart kick by Richmond with aplomb.

The hosts were to swing the game their way by spending most of the second 40 minutes in the Richmond half as they dominated the set scrums taking one heel against the head and sent the visiting eight largely in retreat.

On their own heel scrum-half Luke Carter kept the Richmond back row fully occupied probing away although not able to break away.

The Hawks forwards also had the better of play in the loose where the industrious Robbie Stapley, the increasingly influential Ryan Long and lock Josh McNally frequently threatened to pierce the Richmond defensive shield.

Although the Hawks had been without number seven Liam Dwyer, last year’s player of the season, since as early as 13 minutes into the game, they were always ready to launch handling and running attacks from anywhere. The Hawks consolidated their lead as the second half proceeded through the boot of Comben with penalties in the 53rd and 66th minutes as the visitors infringed in defending the first from 48 metres, giving them a 13-5 lead. Their enterprise was rewarded when they scored what was in effect the match-winning try in the 66th minute.

This started when replacement flanker Tommy Haynes smuggled a ball away from a maul just outside the Hawks 22 to Stapley. Prop Alex Penny took the ball up with a bruising run through would-be tacklers. McNally drove into the Richmond half where he slipped the ball to man-of-the-match O’Neill who left a trail of Richmond players in his slipstream before touching down close to the corner. With the conversion missed the score at 18-5 gave the Hawks a comfortable lead.

However, it was left to Richmond to finish the scoring when wing Wilson scored his second try when he chased a kick ahead over the line beating Martin Nutt to the touchdown.

Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill, 14 Jaryd Robinson, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Tom Allen (Neil Baggett, 80+6 mins), 11 Charles Incledon, 10 James Comben, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford-Scott (James Hadfield, 78 mins), 2 Ant Brennan (Sam Steventon, 80+6 mins), 3 Alex Penny, 4 Dave Clements (Tommy Haynes, 62 mins), 5 Josh McNally, 6 Liam Dwyer (Will Woodward, 13 mins), 7 Ryan Long, 8 Robbie Stapley.

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