Duo’s return to fitness not enough as hosts Barnes make the most of their chances
DESPITE another spirited performance from the Bulls, which included the return of Ed Church at hooker and a first full
DESPITE another spirited performance from the Bulls, which included the return of Ed Church at hooker and a first full 80 minutes of rugby in nearly a year for Adam Lubbock, it was Barnes who managed to convert the lesser amount of territory and possession into points last Saturday.
The Bulls came out of the blocks playing at a tempo that appeared to take Barnes by surprise and forced an early penalty which Lubbock struck cleanly to put them ahead.
After 10 minutes of sustained Bulls pressure where Mark Bruce’s work at the breakdown kept the tempo at a level difficult for Barnes to cope with, Barnes latched on to a loose pass and broke clear, breaking several weak tackles and the resulting scramble defence from the visitors was not enough to stop them scoring their opening try on the break. Patrick George was stopped just short of the line by a crunching defensive effort after cutting back at an angle towards the posts and Lubbock at fly-half made two smart line-breaks to get in behind the Barnes defence.
Front row trio Sam Beckett, Harry Jackson and Ed Church made good ground on a number of carries only for the handling of their support to allow turn-overs to Barnes who relieved the pressure well.
With Jack Broughton and Rory McMeekan, also making full debuts in the back row marshalled by Tom Haynes who gave a man-of-the-match performance at number eight, the Bulls restored their slender lead as Theo Vukasinovic finished a forward drive. Lubbock lost his footing with the conversion that slipped wide to the left.
The Bulls looked the more creative of the sides and only solid Barnes defence on the flanks stopped the pace of the Henley back three from adding to the tally on a number of occasions but weak tackling allowed the Barnes number eight to break through and off-load for them to score their second try in the right corner putting them 12-8 ahead at the break following a successful conversion.
After the break it was Barnes who took charge of possession and retained it well for much of the 20 minutes that followed. Although territory was hard fought over, they forced a penalty that allowed them to stretch the lead and score the try that proved a mountain too far to climb for the Bulls. The visitors’ spirit did not diminish and centre replacement Matt Killean, on loan from Ealing, caused the Barnes midfield a lot of problems with his elusive running bringing the Bulls wingers into play and regaining important territory, enough for the Bulls to force Conor Corrigan over on the right wing for his 14th try of the season. Lubbock was successful from the touchline with the conversion on this occasion.
The Bulls spent the dying minutes in the Barnes half but squandered an attacking line-out near the end and a rear-guard action from Barnes was enough to keep the scoreline at 24-15.
Henley Bulls, Harry Jackson, Ed Church, Sam Beckett, Theo Vukasinovic, Shek Sheriff, Jack Broughton, Rory McMeekan (Ross Lewis, 67 mins), Tommy Haynes, Mark Bruce (Spencer Goggin, 60 mins), Adam Lubbock, Matt Dickens, Patrick George, (Matt Killean, 40 mins), Tom Gardner, Conor Corrigan, Will Jones.