HENLEY HAWKS maintained their 15-point lead at the top of National Division 2 South despite going down to defeat at home to Worthing Raiders last Saturday
Henley Hawks 22, Worthing Raiders 28
HENLEY HAWKS maintained their 15-point lead at the top of National Division 2 South despite going down to defeat at home to Worthing Raiders last Saturday.
Going into the game teams both pledged to play fast open rugby and they did not disappoint.
The sides have been keen rivals over the years, no more so than two seasons ago when they met at Dry Leas in a match which would decide which club would be champions of Division 2 South and gain automatic promotion to Division 1. On that occasion the Hawks ran out comfortable winners.
Since then the tide has turned in favour of Worthing as they defeated the Hawks 30-7 at Angmering last December.
Playing into a brisk breeze the Hawks made a good start using their backs to take the game near to the Raiders? 22. From a scrum fly-half Tom Allen made a break down the wide blind side to off load to wing Jake Randall whose pace took him close to the visitors line but when a try seemed almost certain he was grounded by Joseph Marchant covering at speed from the opposite flank. The England U20 wing used his pace to score two tries later in the game and his influence on the result was significant.
The Hawks were never short of possession in this game and were eager to use it through their backs but found it difficult to retain it and were not helped by referee Alexis Manley frequently punishing them for offences ? six times in the first 15 minutes ? making it difficult to put pressure on the Raiders defence.
The Raiders scored first after 22 minutes when Marchant flew down the left wing to score the first of his brace of tries. This was converted by Mat Mclean, the second leading place kicker in the league, to make the score 7-0.
Centre George Eastwell caused the Raiders problems with some incisive running as the Hawks used their ability to control driving mauls to open their scoring and reduced the Raiders lead when hooker Nathan Taylor made a touch down three minutes later.
In the absence of the injured Connor Murphy and James Comben, their regular place kickers, Eastwell was pressed into duty but failed to convert. This deficiency was to prove vital in the final outcome of the game.
The Hawks pack, missing versatile prop Dave Manning, were able to hold the big Raiders pack in set scrums but had a more difficult time in the line outs. This was exemplified when they unwisely elected to use a throw to the back of the line out five metres out. Worthing seized an errant throw to give number eight Liam Perkins the opportunity to touch down at the second attempt. Mclean converted.
Just before half-time wing Lloyd Owen was put clear after a tapped penalty and he was able to squeeze over close to the corner flag. Eastwell converted from a difficult position that cleared the cross bar by millimetres to reduce the deficit to 14-12.
Although they tested the Worthing defence through the running of Eastwell and Piers O?Conor, the hosts found it difficult to break through a resolute defence and possession was turned over as the fullback was unable to get clear to use his pace. The visitors were able to succeed through Marchant who was able to out pace the Hawks cover and finish by touching down by the posts making the score 21-12 with the conversion .
The Hawks had their backs to the wall as they were now finding it difficult to hold the Raiders driving mauls and had to defend one player short with Eastwell in the sin bin when they could only stop a Raiders maul by illegal means and referee Manley awarded a penalty try. The seven points put the Hawks 28-12 in arrears.
The Hawks then showed their finishing stamina. Spurred on by the advent of Matt Payne joining the fray from the bench they used their ability to use the driving maul by putting him in for a try.
The Hawks switched on to attacking mode, spurned on by the running of Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas and a run by Allen, they established themselves with in the Worthing 10 metre area for 10 minutes and although they occasionally moved the ball a little wider, their persistence was rewarded when skipper Dave Clements was awarded a try. The conversion reduced the arrears to 28-22 to earn the Hawks two league points and maintain their 15 point lead at the top of the table.
Henley Hawks: 15 Piers O?Conor, 14 Lloyd Owen, 13 Fred Pierrepoint (Tom Gardner, 40 mins), 12 George Eastwell, 11 Jake Randall, 10 Tom Allen, 9 Mark Bruce, 1 Hugo Milford-Scott, (Sam Beckett, 31-60 mins; Coghlan 60 mins), 2 Nathan Tailor (Stuart Philpott, 49 mins), 3 Tim Coghlan (Hugo Milford-Scott, 49 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Will Woodward, 6 Tom Hall (Jake O?Lear, 56 mins), 7 Oskar Hirskyj Douglas, 8 Robbie Stapley (Tom Hall. 68 mins).