HENLEY HAWKS? stamina and fitness bore fruit once again as they scored a try in the last minute of their game against third placed Bishop?s Stortford to take a step closer to securing the league title.
Henley Hawks 34, Bishop?s Stortford 34 HENLEY HAWKS? stamina and fitness bore fruit once again as they scored a try in the last minute of their game against third placed Bishop?s Stortford to take a step closer to securing the league title. One of the largest crowds of the season at Dry Leas, more than 700, saw the hosts increase their lead at the top of Division 2 South to 15 points with five matches remaining after second placed Dorking lost out at home to Taunton.
The Hawks were prepared to play a side acknowledged to be the in form team in the league. From the kick-off the Hawks ran the ball down the right touch line and their flying right wing Lloyd Owen was stopped short of the visitors? line. The Hawks, still in possession, were taken unaware when Bishop?s Stortford collected a knock-on. They showed pace and put centre Nick Hankin away on the half-way line to score under the posts for fly-half George Cullen to convert to make it 7-0.
The game was a fast flowing affair with both sides prepared to run the ball without an emphasis on retaining possession.
The Hawks ran the ball back to the opposition and used control in line outs.
Their driving mauls were their best means of scoring and within two minutes Matt Payne, playing at lock showed his expertise to put the Hawks on the board with an unconverted try. They made the score 12-7 when prop Dave Manning surged over for his eighth try of the season, converted by George Eastwell The Hawks were soon to be rocked by Stortford?s scrum-half Tom Whiteley whose pace off the back of the scrum left the Hawks stranded running in two tries without a hand being laid on him as well as running 80 metres to complete his hat-trick when the hosts turned over possession when they were within a metre of Stortford?s line. Cullen converted two of these.
At half-time the visitors led 26-22 as the Hawks had kept in touch with unconverted tries by the industrious Payne and centre Fred Pierrepoint. Both of these were created by driving mauls from line outs from 30 metres. Eastwell, in the unaccustomed role of place kicker, was unable to improve on these scores.
The Hawks were still not able to get back on terms with Bishop?s Stortford after half time as the stretched their lead when fullback Sam Winter picked up a bouncing ball which eluded fullback Jake Randall in the dead ball area. Cullen made his total score for the game nine points with a penalty to give Bishop?s Stortford a 34-22 lead after 50 minutes.
Yet again the driving maul was the architect of the Hawks next score and on this occasion Robbie Stapley, at the fore of such maneuver, grounded the ball and Eastwell converted.
The remaining 30 minutes of the game was almost entirely spent in the visitors half. Some of their impressive passing movements again did not produce a score as the final scoring pass eluded their wings with the defence out flanked.
Although they continued to use the driving maul effectively they did not move the ball amongst their backs when the defence was fully stretched. In addition the fine control they had in the line outs now wavered when scoring opportunities presented themselves. They also lost the ball in scrums, with the head, on a couple of occasions as their patience was wearing thin.
However, they kept their composure when referee Claire Hodnutt indicated that the last movement of the game was in progress. They drove the home pack back well over their line and wing Simon Perry was on hand to touch down Eastwell, pressed into service as place kicker in the absence of regular practitioners, sent the conversion wavering by he upright by a few millimetres and had to be content with two points from a draw plus a bonus point for scoring six tries.
Henley Hawks: 15 Jake Randall (Tom Gardner, 77 mins), 14 Simon Perry, 13 Fred Pierrepoint, 12 George Eastwell, 11 Lloyd Owen, 10 Ed Yarnton, 9 Tom Allen, 1 Tom West, 2 George Edgson, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Matt Payne, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Oskar Hirstkyj-Douglas, 8 Robbie Stapley (Will Woodward, 33-44 mins).