Friday, 04 December 2020

Stapley leads hungry Bulls to comfortable home win

WITH an average age of 21 and the perennial tag of plucky losers in the previous

WITH an average age of 21 and the perennial tag of plucky losers in the previous six meetings with Jersey, the form guide would have surely gone with a repeat outcome, favouring the Islanders in this Zoo Shield Division 1 clash at Dry Leas last Saturday.

The Bulls, led for a second time by Connor Stapley, put together a highly entertaining 80 minute performance. The most impressive part of their performance was a well organised defensive display which kept Jersey at bay time and again, lapsing only once to allow an accurate cut out pass to find the visitors’ left wing who glided over in the corner on 29 minutes.

After an early exchange of penalties the Bulls had a buffer when Jersey’s only try went over as they had created a try of their own to take an 8-3 lead on 24 minutes. The Bulls score was started and finished by two new faces in a Henley line-up; Jack Willis had initially broken out of defence with a good run and quick ball which was moved on through Toby Davies at centre to George Hayes. The prop then pinned the Jersey defence in centre field and created a quick ruck that resulted in Roddie Giles slipping a perfectly timed pass to former Plymouth Albion winger Jamie Davies who went over for the try.

At half-time the score was 8-8 reflecting the equal share of possession and shared success at the set-piece. Jersey had the upper hand at the scrum for much of the first 30 minutes allowing them a platform to attack, whilst Stapley co-ordinated his line-out with success as he and Josh Tonnar managed to pilfer their share of Jersey ball and secured the bulk of their own line-out with Stapley quick and agile at the front and Iwan Davies dominating the tail ball from Curtis Langdon.

Growing in confidence, the Bulls began to edge their way ahead after the break. Freddie Taylor and Dave Wells had forged an understanding at the base of the scrum good enough to reverse the fortunes of the Bulls in this area and it was Willis who rampaged over to the right of the posts following a run up the left flank by Joel Thomas aided and abetted by Jamie Davies. Giles converted.

Whilst not in possession, centre Toby Davies marshalled a defence that nullified any threat from Jersey who had also lost their influential scrum-half with a concussion. This pressure paid dividends as it forced an error that fell kindly into the hands of Giles who gathered a misplaced pass and snaked his way through to score taking the Bulls to a 22-8 lead with 20 minutes remaining and converting his own try.

The Bulls drip-fed replacements from the 51 minute point re-energising their defensive effort and pace and keeping the Jersey threat at bay although they pressed hard for an answer. Fatigue seemed to result in a number of late penalties costing the Bulls field position but their defence held out firmly with big tackles from Harry Jackson and Matt Mann and the safe boot of Callum Cooke ensuring there was no further change to Jersey’s points tally.

A late flurry from the Bulls led to the bonus point try as Jamie Davies blasted his way up field in a break out from Stapley and Josh Tonnar showed some stamina and pace carrying through the Jersey midfield only for the attack to be forced into touch short of the line.

Prop Cecil MacCarthy benefited from an inaccurate Jersey throw which fell fortuitously into his hands and he skipped over the line unchallenged to cap off a pleasing opening performance. Giles rounded the game off with the final conversion.

Henley Bulls: George Hayes (Sam Beckett, 70 mins), Curtis Langdon (Ed Church, 51 mins), Harry Jackson (Cecil MacCarthy, 70 mins), Connor Stapley, Josh Tonnar, Jack Willis, Iwan Davies, Dave Wells (Ian Brown, 63 mins), Freddie Taylor (Jack Edwards, 63 mins), Roddie Giles, Jamie Davies, Toby Davies, Joel Thomas, Ross Lewis (Matt Mann, 70 mins), Callum Cooke.

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