HENLEY HAWKS ran out worthy winners at home to Principality Premium League champions Pontypridd in
HENLEY HAWKS ran out worthy winners at home to Principality Premium League champions Pontypridd in a game which swayed back and forth five times on one of the hottest afternoons of the summer last Saturday, writes Noel Armstead.
The Hawks started this pre-season friendly well, being in charge of possession which left Pontypridd trapped on their own half and much of the time in their own 22.
The Hawks pressed forward with the ball in hand using their backs at every opportunity but could not break through to score due to poor finishing through errors causing them to lose control at line outs and conceding four penalties. The hosts also shunned opportunities to kick penalties in the spirit of a pre-season encounter.
When Pontypridd moved on to the attack they established themselves in the Hawks 22 and this led to them taking the lead when former Welsh fly-half Ceri Sweeney broke a tackle to score near the posts to give fullback Lewis Williams an easy opportunity to make the score 7-0 with the conversion.
The Hawks responded by exerting pressure on the Welsh line from a 10 metre line-out and establishing a driving maul which could only be halted by being brought down illegally which led to referee Tom Davies awarding a penalty try which, with the conversion by James Comben, levelled the scores at 7-7.
Although Pontypridd then lost the services of Wayne O’Connor for an illegal tackle, the Hawks could not take advantage of this and it was the visitors who established a 14-7 lead when Matthew Nuttall supported a break from deep to run in from 30 metres to touch down. This was the first time that there had been any indication of pace from the Welsh backs.
The Hawks’ response was again to set up a driving maul from a line-out 10 metres out from a penalty kick to touch. This resulted in a try by debut hooker Tom Emery. Comben’s conversion attempt from wide out was unsuccessful leaving the Hawks trailing 14-12 at half-time.
The Hawks regained the lead when Comben converted a penalty from 40 metres after 44 minutes. However, their narrow one point advantage was lost after 58 minutes when a repeat score from Nuttall came when he again supported a break from in the Welsh half, by centre Alex Webber, which gave them a 21 -15 lead after another Williams conversion.
The Hawks now began to ring the changes and as the game proceeded the introduction of fresh legs and a certain amount of heat weariness in the Pontypridd side led to the Hawks surging ahead with two tries in the last quarter of the game.
In the first instance Xavier Andre, Hawks’ most impressive runner, had been stopped centimetres short of the line and replacement lock Charlie Davey finished off a good passing movement, bursting through from 20 metres for a debut try. With another Comben conversion the Hawks led 22-21. Further attacking play led to centre Jack Bradford, who had shown nimbleness in intercepting Pontypridd passing movements earlier in the game, touching down to make the final score 27-21.
There were two features in this game which figured in the Hawks’ winning sequence last season —the control of driving mauls from 10 metres and an overall fitness to finish the game strongly.
Henley Hawks: 15 Elliot Cox, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Tom Allen (Tom Gardner), 12 Jack Bradford, 11 Liam O’Neill (Fred Pierrepoint), 10 James Comben, 9 Will Beynon, 1 Dave Manning (Henry Sandys), 2 Tom Emery (Curtis Langdon), 3 Ant Brennan (Cecil McCarthy), 4 Dave Clements (Charlie Davey), 5 Jack Albon, 6 Julian Watkins (Will Woodward), 7 Tom Hall (Ewan Davies), 8 Robbie Stapley (Sam Davidson).