HENLEY HAWKS eased to the National Division 2 South title by scoring 12 tries against Shelford at DryLeas last Saturday to regain their third-tier status at the first time of asking following relelgation last season
Henley Hawks 66pts - Shelford 17 pts
HENLEY HAWKS eased to the National Division 2 South title by scoring 12 tries against Shelford at Dry Leas last Saturday to regain their third-tier status at the first time of asking following relegation last season.
The Hawks had targeted this game to seal promotion and played their best running rugby of the campaign, a feature that has seen them top the table for a record 26 games.
They set the tone from the start scoring after just four minutes when a break by Will Woodward had Shelford reeling and fly-half James Comben took the off load with a side stepping run and scored a converted try to put the hosts five points ahead.
For five minutes the visitors then had their best moments in the game and lost the chance to equalise when they broke through in the Hawks 22 only for their number eight Aki Lea to kick ahead rather than trust their hands which the Hawks defence dealt with.
The Hawks settled down to mesmerise Shelford by well executed passing and exciting running resulting in four further tries by George Eastwell, Dave Manning, Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas and Stuart Philpott making the score 29-3 at half-time. Two of these were converted by Comben.
The procession of scores restarted immediately after half-time with Eastwell?s second and two by wing Lloyd Owen plus one each by Connor Murphy, Jake Randall, Tom Hall and Fred Pierrepoint. Murphy?s try was the only one of these converted by Comben.
Shelford scored two consolation tries through Grant Anderson and John Naylor both of which were converted by Sam Smith although the Hawks? defensive work was generally outstanding.
Neither of the Hawks? established place kickers, Comben and Murphy, were on form in this game with just three of the dozen tries converted by Comben. Had they been on target the winning score could have been increased by 18 points.
The halfbacks combined well to get their many backs movements flowing, the result was that nine of the dozen tries scored were touched down by the backs.
The forwards played a full part in many of the handling movements but the recent tendency to score by means of driving mauls was not a feature, although they were in evidence occasionally.
The winning score could also have been higher when scoring opportunities were missed on one or two occasions, for example when fullback Tom Allen thrust through from half way and was looking certain to a score a try only to be scythed down a metre or two from the line while Hirskyj-Douglas lost control of the ball over the line.
The forwards were well in control of operations in their sphere which included two heels against the head and with a well controlled line-out.
This match was typical of the combined team effort throughout the season. This was summed up by Hawks? director of rugby Nigel Dudding who refused to award a man of the match. On this occasion he said: ?This was another great team effort. They have worked so hard and have come away with victories in difficult situations.
?It is a reward to win the league with three games yet to be played ? the first time this has been done.?
Henley Hawks: 15 Tom Allen, 14 Lloyd Owen, 13 Fred Pierpoint, 12 George Eastwell, 11 Jake Randall (Tom Gardner, 53 mins), 10 James Comben, 9 Connor Murphy, 1 Tom West, (Hugo Milford-Scott, 40 mins), 2 Stuart Philpott (Dave Manning, 63 mins), 3 Dave Manning (Tim Coghlan, 56 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Will Woodward (Jake O?Leary, 43 mins), 6 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, 7 Gus Jones (Tom Hall, 45 mins), 8 Robbie Stapley.