SECOND-half tries from Tom Hall, Harry Jackson and Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas saw Henley Bulls fight back to win this
SECOND-half tries from Tom Hall, Harry Jackson and Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas saw Henley Bulls fight back to win this Zoo Shield clash at Dry Leas.
The hosts were made to work hard for the victory having trailed the Heatherns heading into the final third of the contest. Â
Hall and Jackson took the game to Blackheath with some thunderous ball-carrying early on, while the Bulls backs looked a real threat in possession.
Yet it was Blackheath who ran in the opening two tries, which arrived during the opening 17 minutes.
These were scored in Â similar counter-attacking situations. Struggling to maintain quality possession, due to the hunger and tenacity of Blackheath’s pack at the breakdown, the hosts were forced into making errors.
Henley were also not helped by their opponents’ pace in defence.
Blackheath’s early 0-12 lead, though, was shortened in similar fashion when the Bulls forced a turnover of their own, which allowed full-back Conor Corrigan to surprise the visitors by chipping the ball over the onrushing defenders, regaining it and scoring left of the posts.
Adam Lubbock converted to take the score to 12-7 going in at half-time, but not before Blackheath lost a player to the sin-bin. But try as they might with the extra man, the Bulls were resolutely kept at bay.
The hosts were then hit by a sucker punch early in the second session when the Heathens added to their lead.
Despite plenty of possession and territory it appeared the Bulls might suffer further disappointment but the remaining 30 minutes witnessed a turnaround as the Heathens began to tire.
Bulls centres Lubbock and Tom Gardner began wearing down the Heathens defence through powerful direct runs, while skilful off-loading from the supporting players also helped.
Within 10 minutes both Hall and Jackson had dabbed down. Lubbock converted both and the Bulls boasted a slender lead of 21-19.
The Henley pack had held firm throughout the first half, but as the game reached the latter stages they began dominating the scrum with Sam Beckett and Tim Coghlan providing solidity for Rob Wright and Hirskyj-Douglas, later on, to exploit from No8.
And dominating possession, any Heathens threat to regain the lead was snuffed out by the determined defensive work of Gardner, Ross Lewis and Connor Morrison, who showed impressive strength and organisation.
The closing quarter was where locks Jake O’Leary and Shek Sheriff showed an edge in terms of fitness and aerial prowess to the performance, with half-backs Mark Bruce and Spencer Goggin forcing the bulk of the action to take place in Heathens territory.
This resulted in a bonus-point try, as Hirskyj-Douglas showed strength and skilful footwork to step free of a tackle and sprint in under the posts, giving Lubbock an easy kick to add the extras.