Friday, 19 August 2022

Last gasp try leaves Hawks reeling

HENLEY HAWKS’ inconsistent form continued as they lost to Southend Saxons in the last seconds of a game played in

HENLEY HAWKS’ inconsistent form continued as they lost to Southend Saxons in the last seconds of a game played in windy but dry conditions on a sticky muddy pitch on Saturday.

The Saxons had the advantage of the blustery play from the kick-off and with their heavy pack dominated the game in terms of territory for the first 40 minutes.

The Hawks found it difficult to use their backs, not only because of the Saxons’ physical forward play, but also their self-inflicted slipshod handling and passing. In the first 10 minutes they either dropped passes or failed to keep the ball because of poor continuity.

The Saxons took advantage of a knock-on in their 22 and set up driving mauling attacks, the second of which led to a try after two minutes’ play by flanker Harry Hudson who ran in from an unguarded blindside, with Robbie Stapley illegally bound into the scrum. This try was not converted by fly-half Bradley Burr but their five point lead became 8-0 eight minutes later when he kicked a straightforward penalty.

The Hawks had few opportunities to build pressure to score to reduce this lead apart from a penalty which Southend conceded in their 22 after Piers O’Conor had made a break. James Comben was unable to put the Hawks on the scoreboard from in front of the posts in the tricky windy conditions.

The Hawks went further behind when the Saxons drove hooker Adam Ferrier over from a set scrum for their second unconverted try to make the score 13-0 at half-time.

The Hawks made a promising start to the second half gaining possession and using the ball to threaten the Southend line. After 44 minutes, moving the ball from right to left, number eight Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas went over to open the Hawks’ account which became seven points with a conversion by Comben.

The visitors were now pressing to further reduce the Saxons’ lead who tackled effectively but a Comben penalty from close to the posts made the score 13-10.

Opportunities to score again were now burgeoning. Scrum-half Parker made good progress but a possible scoring pass was adjudged forward. As the last quarter of the game approached visibility became difficult for the referee who instructed that the floodlights be switched on.

The disjointed nature of the game continued with the delay in retrieving the ball with the lack of provision of ball boys and only two balls made available for use.

The Hawks were now pressing hard for a further score with the game now mainly in the Saxons 22. They produced the best handling move of the game when making gains towards the Southend line which gave them the opportunity to switch play to the right and O’Conor was set free on a potential overlap but a try-saving tackle stopped him. Soon after the Hawks put in a drive from 20 metres and replacement lock Jake O’Leary stretched to score a try which again Comben converted to make the score 17-13. It seemed that the Hawks were now sufficiently in charge to win the match but errors let the home side back into the game. Crucially they lost a line-out awarded to them for a penalty and the Saxons dominated possession for the last 10 minutes of the game.

The home pack were now in charge of proceedings and effectively snuffed out the Hawks’ chances of getting away from their 22 by winning three line-outs as the Hawks were pinned to 10 metres from their line. They kept the Saxons at bay with determined defence tackling and driving them back from their line but Hirskyj-Douglas was given a yellow card for a side approach to a maul which made defence more difficult.

The visitors prevented the Saxons driving over although conceding three penalties. The Hawks held out until the Saxons switched tactics and the ball went to fly-half Burr and an accurate kick to the corner which was caught at full stretch by centre Tom Ashton who touched down the winning try as full time was called after the conversion was missed.

Overall a disappointing game for the Hawks who failed to organise and execute their game but the bonus point earned kept them in top position in the league with a superior point difference over Dorking.

Henley Hawks: 15 Piers O’Conor, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Fred Pierrepoint, 12 George Eastwell, 11 Jake Randall, 10 James Comben, 9 Tom Parker, 1 Hugo Milford-Scott (Jimmy Litchfield, 40 mins), 2 Stuart Philpott, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Will Woodward (Jake O’Leary, 69 mins), 6 Robbie Stapley, 7 Tom Hall, 8 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas. Replacements not used: Tom Allen, Tim Coghlan, Lloyd Owen.

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