Henley not at the races as they suffer heavy defeat at Blaydon
IT has been said that a week is a long time in politics and this was true of the last
IT has been said that a week is a long time in politics and this was true of the last week for the Hawks in rugby.
After the sublime victory over undefeated league leaders Doncaster Knights the Hawks suffered the remorse of a heavy defeat at Blaydon.
Although the Tynesiders were clearly the best side on the day the Hawks in no way had the rub of the green which they had enjoyed in the game against the Knights.
Weather conditions, with persistent rain prevailing, greeted them as the game kicked off which was against their running style of play.
The Hawks were up against a side who had won their last four matches led by a canny coach in former Newcastle prop Mickey Ward. Blaydon had clearly done their homework prior to the game and were aware of the Hawks’ strengths and weaknesses.
The hosts were prepared to take the visitors up front in the loose, rucks and driving mauls and defend stubbornly, tackling with the same ferocity that the Hawks themselves had shown against Doncaster.
Referee decisions seemed to go against the Hawks. This was first observed in the first five minutes when the Hawks pressed the home line through their effective mauling technique and on two successive occasions referee Andrew Jackson penalised Blaydon but could well have awarded at least a yellow card for persistent offending if not a penalty try.
The Hawks’ difficulty in penetrating the home defence persisted throughout the game whilst Blaydon had no such difficulty and they showed this as early as the fifth minute. In their first visit to Hawks territory scrum-half Andrew Davies followed up a driving maul to dive over for an unconverted try.
The Hawks were persisting with their use of driving mauls but suffered a blow when lock Jason McNally suffered a damaged ankle and had to be escorted from the pitch being replaced by Ben Ashmore, making his comeback from injury, who replaced Will Woodward as blind side flanker, he having moved to lock.
Blaydon increased their lead when hooker Francis Entressengle was driven over for a try following a line-out.
The next two tries by Blaydon were crucial to the outcome of the match. The Hawks were developing a good handling movement approaching their 10-metre line when wing Tom Jeffery stepped in to intercept a pass and race to the other end of the ground to make the score 19-0 with Andy Baggett’s second conversion of the game.
At half-time the Hawks were still well in the game and a second score from them would have encouraged them to close the gap. However, straight from the restart the home side drove to the left hand corner where lock Chris Wearmouth was awarded a try on the assistant referee’s recommendation although it appeared Will Robinson had held the ball up. The visitors then had their best period of the game parking themselves on the Blaydon line.
The Hawks tried to cross the line by forward driving mauls or by using their backs and then put together their best handling move and Robinson was able to move a long pass to the left where Liam O’Neill forced his way over close to touch. Both sides had had difficulties in handling the greasy ball and used long punts out of defence to establish territorial advantage.
Blaydon’s experienced fly-half Baggett tested James Comben in his unusual position of fullback but he was firm under the high ball and used his useful sidestep to make ground. The Hawks were now handicapped further with Dave Clements leaving the field with a damaged jaw. With their two main jumpers off the pitch line-out possession was not secure but throughout the game the Hawks eight had their measure of the opposition in the set scrums. This was true when Baggett received a yellow card for foul play. Unfortunately a period of pressure in the home 22 did not give rise to further points for the Hawks and things became more difficult when Hugo Milford-Scott was also banished to the sin bin.
Once more Blaydon were able to get a reward for pressure on the Hawks’ line when prop Robert Kalbraier forced his way over for a try to take the score to 32-5.
The Hawks had welcomed back Xavier Andre as a last minute replacement after injury and on one occasion he created the best chance of the Hawks adding to their score but he was cut down a metre or two short.
The try of the match by lively Blaydon wing Sean Brown was created by Baggett on return from the sin bin when a cunning chip ahead gave the youngster the chance to run through to score and give the home side a 39-5 victory.
Henley Hawks: 15 James Comben, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Tom Allen, 11 Liam O’Neill (Milford-Scott, 70 mins), 10 Will Robinson, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Hugo Milford-Scott, 2 Ant Brennan, 3 Alex Penny (Jim Hadfield, 68 mins), 4 Dave Clements (Tommy Haynes, 53 mins), 5 Josh McNally (Ben Ashmore, 16 mins), 6 Will Woodward, 7 Ryan Long, 8 Robbie Stapley.