Bruce’s debut try not enough as winless away run continues
A LATE rally by the Hawks was not enough to save them from slipping to their third successive National Division
A LATE rally by the Hawks was not enough to save them from slipping to their third successive National Division 1 defeat at Wharfedale on Saturday.
After a disappointing first half which saw them 29-9 in arrears they rallied in the last quarter of the game and scored three tries which had the home side reeling.
The visitors fielded a squad which contained four players making their first appearance for the Hawks either to start or as replacements.
These caused them to be unsettled in facing a side which was prepared to play their kind of rugby, ready to attack with the ball in hand and take advantage of less than effective tackling. The Hawks were often pushed aside by strong running which caused them to slip their tackles.
This was evident in the first 15 minutes when they conceded two tries by Josh Prell and fly-half Tom Barrett. The ex-Leeds Carnegie fly-half was the most influential player for the hosts not only creating chances with running and reading of the game but also with his place kicking and probing kicks. With a penalty and a conversion he contributed 10 points out of 15 in this period.
The Hawks were very much in the game but as in their previous match against Old Albanians they had the majority of the possession throughout the game. The front row of Ant Brennan, Dai Maddocks and Alex Penny put in sturdy defensive work but were unable to put points on the board.
During this opening phase they had much to thank their two props who were impressive in carrying the ball out of the Hawks 22, with number eight Robbie Stapley working tirelessly to keep the Hawks in the game.
The pattern of the game was such that the Hawks had the possession but the Greens scored the points, apart from two penalties by the reliable James Comben which made it 15-6 to the hosts.
The fly-half almost added a try when side stepping close to the Wharfedale line and this came after the Hawks pressed through seven phases, but during this time when attacking options were created they brought the ball back into the middle rather than moving it wide to their fast wing men, Xavier Andre and Jarryd Robinson. The visitors had the misfortune to see their best opportunity go to waste when centre Charlie Incledon knocked on with wing Andre waiting unopposed to score.
It was the Greens who used the ball well and it was Barritt who, with a shrewd kick ahead, gave centre Scott Jordan the opportunity to touch down which the fly-half converted to make the score 22-6.
The Hawks then had a period pressing the home side’s line before Comben made it 22-9 with his third penalty. The Hawks tried to make the most of frequent penalties conceded by Wharfedale attempting to score from four penalties on or about 10 metres, but this tactic failed as they could not control their own lineout throws. The pattern of the game continued as the Greens then effectively turned possession in the Hawks’ half in to another score when again Barritt put wing Prell in a position to score from another kick ahead. With the added conversion the hosts led 29-9 at half-time. The match turned in the Hawks favour when Wharfedale fullback Christian Georgiou was sent to the sin bin for a team offence - persistent offending — so they started the second half with fourteen men. However, the home side were the next to score when Barritt observed the absence of cover and although Robinson covered a kick ahead well, in trying to use his pace to counter attack he was isolated, caught in possession and centre Donkin was able to score an opportunistic try. Barritt converted to make the score 36-9.
The Hawks now began to move the ball and use their pace. They closed the gap when skipper Martin Nutt, up from fullback, combined with Andre to touch down. With Comben replaced because of injury the Hawks were unable to convert this or the other tries that followed with Robinson pressed into duty in an unusual role.
The Hawks were now showing the form that made it difficult for the opposition to cope, with speed and guile, which made the Greens look exposed. In pressing close to the line scrum-half Mark Bruce scored a debut try for the visitors while Andre finished off some neat handling to score their third try.
The home side’s defence now looked fragile as the Hawks were eager to score two more tries to register a bonus point.
The visitors produced a good cross field handling movement which put left wing Christophe Bart free to use his speed but he was halted just three metres short of the line.
Henley Hawks: 15 Martin Nutt, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Carles Incledon (Christopne Bart, 56 mins), 12 Tom Allen, 11 Jarryd Robinson, 10 James Comben (Neil Baggett, 56 mins), 9 Mark Bruce, 1 Dai Maddocks, 2 Ant Brennan (Warren Higgins, 66 mins), 3 Alex Penny (Jim Hadfield, 56 mins), 4 Conner Stapley, 5 Tom McGregor, 6 Will Woodward, 7 Ryan Long, 8 Robbie Sapley.