HENLEY HAWKS lost their proud home record on Saturday against Old Albanians, when they suffered defeat at Dry Leas for
HENLEY HAWKS lost their proud home record on Saturday against Old Albanians, when they suffered defeat at Dry Leas for the first time since January 2012.
Had the game been decided by the amount of possession controlled by the two sides and territorial dominance the Hawks would have won comfortably.
They had 65 per cent possession in the game most pronounced in two main phases. This was so in the first half when apart from two attacks that led to two tries, most of the game was played in the visitors’ 22.
The Hawks could not turn this dominance into points for two main reasons — the well organised Albanians defence and their poor handling.
The game was played in what could be described as greasy wet conditions which was not conducive to the dry favoured by the Hawks as their passing movements were stuttering. They were unable to find space to develop scoring opportunities.
Had these features been better they could have penetrated the visitors’ defence. Further they found it difficult in the maul situation to drive the ball when pressing to cross the white line.
Despite the continued absence of their injured ‘legions’ compounded by the unavailability of their first choice locks following last week’s game at Blaydon they continued to do well in the set pieces, particularly the set scrums.
It was an inability to ruck the ball following effective tackling which restricted the opportunities to sustain attacks and in this regard they suffered from the injury to flanker Tommy Haynes, early in the second half, who showed the most aggression in this phase of play.
The Hawks fell behind 7-0 after just seven minutes when the Old Albanians scored on the first occasion they were near the Hawks’ line when flanker and skipper Billy Johnson ran through some ineffective tackling to touch down. Fullback Richard Gregg converted.
The Hawks were able to make use of tapped penalties and the running of centre Tom Allen and wing Xavier Andre plus forays by fullback Liam O’Neill but they could not beat an obdurate visitors’ defence.
In contrast, as half-time approached, the Albanians scored again when they launched their first serious attack for some time and from a five metre line-out, scrum-half Stefan Liebenburg stole away to score for Gregg again to convert to make the score at half-time 14-0.
The second half continued in the same manner as the first with Hawks again having the great majority of possession.
The Hawks were now improving their handling and passing but this was countermanded by an improvement in the visitors’ defence.
After shunning opportunities to kick penalty goals Comben was given the chance to put them on the scoreboard from upwards of 35 metres and he took the score to 14-3 after 46 minutes.
Once more the Old Albanians took the opportunity to score with a drop goal from midfield by Gregg. This score came from a comparatively rare visit to the Hawks’ half.
With 25 minutes to go the Hawks showed determination to close the 17-3 gap as the half proceeded.
Will Robinson came on at fullback and the handling of the backs improved as the last quarter of the game was mostly spent in the visitors’ half. The Hawks got some ball to left wing Jaryd Robinson who put in two good runs of 40 metres close to touch.
The Hawks deserved to get something out of this game to reflect their contribution and it came in the dying seconds when the ball was switched from Luke Carter’s tapped penalty in the Old Albanians’ 22 on the right to the left where fly-half Comben appeared to touch down near the corner.
With the last kick of the game he secured the vital conversion from close to touch to earn the Hawks a valuable bonus point.
This enabled them to maintain their ninth place in the league as the results of the teams immediately below them were in their favour.
Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill (Will Robinson, 52 mins), 14 Jaryd Robinson, 13 Martin Nutt, 12 Tom Allen (Charles Incledon, 49 mins), 11 Xavier Andre, 10 James Comben, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Dai Maddocks (Hugo Milford-Scott), 2 Ant Brennan, 3 Alex Penny (Sam Steventon, 75 mins), 4 Tom McGregor, 5 Will Woodward, 6 Tom Haynes (Connor Stapley, 45 mins), 7 Ryan Long, 8 Robbie Stapley.