ON any normal day, outscoring your opponents by more than two tries to one would result in a comfortable victory,
ON any normal day, outscoring your opponents by more than two tries to one would result in a comfortable victory, but Cinderford United snatched a victory over the Bulls by simply taking every points scoring opportunity presented to them in clinical fashion on Saturday.
Encouraged by the return to action of Tommy Haynes, Ed Yarnton and Jake Elias, the Bulls were looking to improve on the 27-8 score-line they suffered against Cinderford at Dry Leas in September.
Tom Steindler, Tim Coghlan and Jake O’Leary had all earned well-deserved call-ups to the Hawks so Tom Gardner led the Bulls as skipper for the first time.
The rain remained at bay in the Forest of Dean but the soft underfoot conditions gave the heavier Cinderford pack an advantage at scrum time throughout the game.
Tommy Haynes made the best of possession from number eight to launch several early attacks with Shek Sheriff and Harry Jackson testing the tight defence with well-timed runs.
Within seven minutes of the start it was Jackson who bustled his way over from a driving maul to open the Bulls tally of five tries. All five tries for the Bulls went unconverted which allowed United to keep a foothold in the game as their fly-half proved 100 per cent accurate throughout. A penalty for United soon followed and then a loose ball from a Bulls attack fell kindly to their talented inside centre who gathered and slipped through the Bulls’ on-rushing lines putting Cinderford 10-5 ahead.
The Bulls returned to more structured rugby with Haynes and Theo Vukasinovic orchestrating some slick play thanks to the accuracy and impressive work-rate of hooker Ian Brown from their dominant line-out.
Ed Yarnton, returning from injury at fly-half, took some heavy hits but weathered the storm enough to lace passes through to Gardner to break left and then switch right feeding Si Perry and fullback Joe Southwell, who occupied the last defender, and deftly put Conor Corrigan into the corner for the Bulls’ second try to even the scores at 10-10.
Jimmy and Rob Wright, along with Liam Trinder, harried and hustled all afternoon and their speed in defence along with some well-timed spot-tackling from Si Perry prevented United’s more organised attacks and forced several decisive errors which scrum-half Mark Bruce used to his advantage.
As the Bulls turned possession over Bruce looked left and right for a counterattack option but quickly opted to take the shortest route to the line from 25 metres and managed to slide in unaided to restore a 15-10 lead.
At this point the Bulls lost the advantage of a dominant line-out with both Sheriff and Vukasinovic leaving the field for treatment. Sheriff was patched up and returned to the field after a 15 minute break but Vukasinovic’s aerial threat was denied them thereafter making the set-piece a much more difficult source of quality possession.
Sam Beckett, Brown and Jackson, now under enormous pressure at the scrum, adapted well as Gardner wisely plumped to loosen the game up and use a 15-man approach to keep the ball alive and avoid set-pieces.
As the Bulls adapted to this approach Cinderford had repeated their opening 10 point salvo with a penalty and converted try from a grubber kick to restore a 20-15 lead with half-time falling in between.
The Bulls were quick to respond recreating their own first half try from Corrigan who again slid over for his second to even up the scores at 20-20.
Cinderford reverted to a tighter game using their centres to tie up the Bulls defence and forcing scrummages where their known advantage could be driven home. They forced two penalties in this fashion as the much lighter Bulls eight stood up under the pressure.
With a 26-20 advantage through the accurate boot of their fly-half, United looked to kill the game off but the Bulls continued to probe with Perry and Gardner feeding wing Matt Dickens who made several bursts up the flank and Joe Southwell making a break which looked likely to be the winning move only to suffer a knee injury as a result of the saving tackle and having to leave the field.
It was fitting that Harry Jackson and Rob Wright played a part in allowing Jimmy Wright to score a fifth and final Bulls try as the backs provided the territory while the tight forwards provided the close support and handling skills to weave a path for Wright to cross. The angled conversion beat the boot of Jake Elias, who had just taken the field and Cinderford hung on for the victory.
Henley Bulls: Harry Jackson, Ian Brown, Sam Beckett, Theo Vukasinovic, Shek Sheriff, Rob Wright, Liam Trinder, Tommy Haynes, Mark Bruce, Ed Yarnton, Conor Corrigan, Tom Gardner, Si Perry, Matt Dickens, Joe Southwell. Replacements: Jimmy Wright, Jack Broughton, Jake Elias, Patrick George.