HENLEY BULLS closed the door on a season of mixed fortunes with victory over resolute opposition
HENLEY BULLS closed the door on a season of mixed fortunes with victory over resolute opposition at the Regatta Meadow on Saturday.
The late withdrawal of number eight James Bloxham and centre Simon Perry meant opportunities for Connor Stapley to rejoin with his pace and height to the back row and for Taylor Stephens to make a debut on the wing as Patrick George moved to the centre.
Sam Beckett earned his call-up to the Hawks side so Ant Brennan took the field at tight-head prop in only his third game since returning to play. Ed Church took on the captain’s role after his outing with the Hawks the previous week.
The visitors’ pack ensured they maintained much of the possession in the opening 10 minutes as they forced their way downfield against a stiffening breeze picking and driving from the breakdown or taking short passes from the scrum half but causing enough disarray to eventually spot a gap in the Bulls defence and slip through to score. The conversion from a wide angle was successful putting the Bulls under early pressure.
The Bulls responded with a period of domination in possession and although unsuccessful in playing their normal structured game plan they found enough chinks in the Raiders’ armour to exploit with damaging line-breaks from Dan Furnell, Paddy George and Rob Wright with support enough to force their way into Raiders’ territory but not quite the accuracy to make the forays count.
The Raiders soon showed signs of breaking down and the Bulls created the opportunity for two individual breaks by centre Adam Lubbock and lock forward Theo Vukasinovic to show their pace and elusiveness as both scored from 50 metres cutting angled lines through the Raiders defence to score. Lubbock failed to convert his own try from the wider angle.
Two further tries came the way of the Bulls before half-time through Rob Wright and flanker Scott White. Both tries were scored near the posts allowing Lubbock to convert with aplomb. With the winning bonus point in the bag the Bulls’ attempts to stretch away were hindered by the sin-binning of Shek Sheriff as a result of several team warnings for infringing at the breakdown.
The second half was interspersed with several more yellow cards as Scott White had his impressive performance interrupted by a 10 minute spell in the bin for similar reasons and Worthing suffered two cards of their own.
With 20 minutes remaining Worthing made the first impact of the second half forcing a mismatch out wide and closing the score to a 10 point margin as their fly-half added the extras with an angled conversion to make it 24-14.
The Bulls dominated the latter stages as the Raiders’ resilience began to crumble under the pressure of the Bulls onslaught as the ball-carrying of Harry Jackson proved challenging to stop when in full flight.
Despite his efforts, the Raiders defence held the Bulls out time and again until a burst from Spencer Goggin and slick handling from Lubbock and Furnell sent Ross Lewis into a hole between the centre and his opposition winger to score from 20 metres out. Lubbock added the extras to give the Bulls the 31-14 win.
Henley Bulls: Harry Jackson, Ed Church, Ant Brennan (Max Chandler), Theo Vukasinovic, Shek Sheriff (Sam Middleton), Connor Stapley, Scott White, Rob Wright, Will Beynon, Spencer Goggin, Ross Lewis, Adam Lubbock, Patrick George (Liam John), Taylor Stephens, Dan Furnell.