Monday, 08 August 2022

Patience pays off as second half fight back secures win

HENLEY HAWKS were given a scare by the Cornish All Blacks as they edged a thrilling game of two contrasting

HENLEY HAWKS were given a scare by the Cornish All Blacks as they edged a thrilling game of two contrasting halves at Dry Leas on Saturday. The win extends their lead at the top of National 2 South as rivals Dorking had their game postponed.

In the first half the visitors stunned the league leaders by taking an early 6-0 lead thanks to two penalties from Matt Shepherd.

All Blacks outside half Jacob Murphy kicked intelligently when necessary and was a constant threat with the ball in hand. Murphy and centre Ryan Westran cut through the home side’s defence with ease and Henley, under pressure, were constantly penalised. The Cornishmen dominated the scrums and their forwards controlled the breakdown area.

The Hawks couldn’t find any continuity at all and were guilty of making mistakes, often in their own half. Passing errors and the inability to secure their own line-out ball curtailed a number of promising opportunities.

For most of the first half, the hosts were outplayed and two tries just before half-time were nothing less than the All Blacks deserved. Following another Henley infringement, the visitors were confident enough not to kick at goal and All Blacks skipper James Salter finished off a catch and drive from the resulting line-out to score the visitors’ first try. Matt Shepherd converted.

Henley then lost another line-out of their own to allow the All Blacks to break clear and following a chip ahead, Matt Shepherd won the race for the touchdown to give the visitors an 18-0 lead at the break.

In contrast to the first period, Henley came out for the second half in determined fashion. The introduction of fans’ favourite Matt Payne gave the home side a new vigour and two tries in the first 10 minutes of the half gave the Hawks some much needed momentum. Following a series of attacking phases, good work from Payne and then skipper Dave Clements allowed hooker Stuart Philpott to drive over for the Hawks’ first try.

Shortly afterwards a break from James Comben and Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas put the visitors under further pressure. A clearing kick was well collected by Jake Randall and his curving run set up a position for the backs and for Ed Yarnton to cut through the visitors’ defence to score his side’s second try which Comben converted. He added a penalty to further reduce the arrears.

The Hawks were now dominating and after a period of sustained pressure close to the visitors’ line, another forward drive was illegally halted and referee Boscawen was left with no alternative but to award a penalty try and a yellow card to Launceston’s Lloyd Duke. Comben converted to put the Hawks ahead for the first time. The All Blacks had a second player sin binned almost immediately and a good Hawks drive from a set scrum resulted in a second penalty try and a much needed bonus point.

The game seemed secure for the Hawks but the All Blacks hit back immediately and Shepherd scored his second try after a break out from Jonathan Dawe. Fullback Billy Searle crossed for a try in the corner but missed the conversion. As the Cornishmen tried to attack out of their own 22, they were penalised and all chances of an upset were gone, leaving the Hawks one point ahead at the final whistle.

Speaking after the match, Henley’s director of rugby Nigel Dudding was pleased with the way his side responded to a disappointing first half. He said: “You have to score early. We looked dead and buried at half-time but it’s a sign of the character of this squad and the desire to get things back on track. We didn’t panic at half-time, just told the players to stay patient and score early. We did. However, we were disappointed with the way the game finished as we looked comfortable then but credit to Launceston.”

Henley Hawks: 15 O’Conor, 14 Andre (Owen, 61 mins), 13 Yarnton, 12 Allen (Eastwell, 80 mins), 11 Randall, 10 Comben, 9 Parker, 1 West (Milford-Scott, 22 mins), 2 Philpott, 3 Litchfield (Manning, 40 mins), 4 Clements, 5 Woodward (Payne, 40 mins), 6 Stapley, 7 Hall, 8 Hirskyj-Douglas.

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