Bloxham try not enough as Islanders take the honours
HENLEY BULLS were greeted by a stiff south-westerly wind in Jersey and a strong Island XV that included Nick Trower
HENLEY BULLS were greeted by a stiff south-westerly wind in Jersey and a strong Island XV that included Nick Trower at number eight and Ed Dawson at fullback.
The Bulls were buoyed by the return of Tim Coghlan and Adam Lubbock making his first appearance in almost 12 months from the replacements bench.
The first half allowed little opportunity for either side to launch any decisive back moves and became much more of a battle of the packs with Kingsley Lang and Nick Trower carrying well for Jersey forcing the bulls to focus on defending which they did with gusto.
The Bulls scrum was impressive against heavier opposition and Mark Bruce enjoyed much more possession than against Richmond from the set-piece. With the forwards on both sides providing much of the go forward, the breakdown became a little untidy at times with both teams testing the referee’s patience in an attempt to create some continuity under heavy counter-pressure.
It was the Bulls who suffered the first backlash as Theo Vukasinovic was yellow-carded and the one man advantage was enough for Jersey to take a 7-0 lead after 18 minutes, crashing over from a driving maul for a converted try.
The Hawks enjoyed equal possession only to be forced into several early handling errors by a determined pressure defence from the Jersey outfit. Ian Brown impressed the crowd with some elusive breaks and deft off-loads for the Bulls and Graham Bell the Jersey open-side proved a real handful throughout the encounter until Jersey then suffered the wrath of the match officials with John Allo taking a 10 minute forced rest and allowing field position for Henley to respond with a try of their own through James Bloxham who steered a driving maul to the line from a driving line-out.
The conversion was missed but Jake Elias did provide a brief lead just before half-time with a long range penalty that took the Bulls into the break 7-8 up.
The Bulls had lost prop Sam Beckett during the latter part of the first half with a knee injury and lost two key players soon after as centre Tom Gardner suffered an ankle injury after providing much of the Bulls’ response to any threat from the Jersey back division and James Bloxham with a head injury that curtailed his impressive display. Harry Jackson, who continues to impress at prop, was joined by Harry Challoner recently recruited form the RAF and both answered the call with a notable contribution in the set-piece and in the loose.
As the Bulls reshuffled their pack Jersey took advantage of the bedding-in period with a second try as their back row broke through from the base of a five metre scrum and scored between the posts allowing a simple conversion.
Graham Bell and fullback Ed Dawson continued to impress for Jersey throughout the second half and a similar driving effort to their first try with a maul then pick and drive provided a third try with 10 minutes remaining stretching their lead to 19-8.
The Bulls tried to respond in kind with Jake O’Leary and Vukasinovic testing the Jersey defence and allowing a few more opportunities for replacement Adam Lubbock to bring the Bulls backs into the game. Dan Barnes at centre seemed to draw the focus of the Jersey defence whilst Perry and Matt Dickens attempted to gain ground on the flanks. Perry provided the field position whilst Dickens came closest to providing the Bulls with a life-line, linking well with Conor Corrigan only to be stopped abruptly short of the line. The score-line remained unchanged at the end at 19-8 despite the Bulls dominating possession for much of the closing period.