HENLEY HAWKS were outplayed in their first home match of the season as visitors Blackheath ran
HENLEY HAWKS were outplayed in their first home match of the season as visitors Blackheath ran in six tries to secure an emphatic 47-13 win.
For the Henley side there was an ominous beginning to the game when they did not collect the visitors’ kick-off and let it bounce on their 22 line. Fortunately Blackheath were off side and pressure on the Hawks was relieved immediately but not for long because when the hosts were in possession their handling was so slipshod that they could not put any sustained pressure on the visitors.
The Hawks quickly gave away two penalties close to their posts which was food and drink to Blackheath number 10 Fred Gabbitass who scored two kicks in the first 10 minutes to give his side a 6-0 lead. Gabbitass went on to score 17 points throughout the game.
James Comben did reduce the deficit to three points five minutes later but the score then at 6-3 was the closest the Hawks came to Blackheath in the whole of the match.
The visitors immediately took a grip on the game when prop Terry Read crashed through some ineffective tackling for Blackheath’s first try of the match, converted by Gabbitass. This was followed four minutes later when fullback Geoff Griffiths scored after a strong decisive burst down the right which again the Hawks tackling could not stop.
At this stage of the game the Hawks’ counter to the powerful play of the visitors’ forwards was only effectively countered by number eight Robbie Stapley who took the ball forward in the loose and made yardage but this was not supported by the remainder of the pack so play was still primarily in the home side’s territory.
When the Hawks did mount counterattacks through their backs their handling let them down and the final pass to the wing went astray.
With the Hawks trailing 18-3 after 33 minutes they secured some worthwhile possession and a break by wing Simon Perry, the Hawks’ most effective runner, put them on to a sustained attack for the first time.
A penalty kick by Comben to the corner gave Henley the chance to mount a driving maul which was controlled well and flanker Tom Hall was driven over. With Comben’s conversion the visitors’ lead was now reduced to 18-10 with half-time approaching.
Blackheath struck back before the break when prop Ason Croall finished off a forwards handling movement to put his side 23-10 up.
The Hawks made a spirited start to the second half with Stapley and Hall prominent as much of the play was now in the visitors’ half. However, this could not be turned into points because possession was turned over in the rucks as the opposition were well organised and an experienced back row led by flanker Dave Allen supported by Tom Baldwin and number eight James Catt prevented the Hawks sustaining their attacks.
On the whole the Hawks pack which had been so effective in their previous game against Darlington Mowden Park foundered against the big robust Blackheath pack. Ascendancy in the set scrums, aided to some extent by referee Boscawen’s management of them, was not achieved or helped by the resultant adverse penalty count. Control in the line-outs suffered as visitors were effectively competitive.
The Hawks made little use of their backs because of the lack of possession although Liam O’Neill conjured up a 40 metre break which was not supported and little could be seen of the potential of the new signing Jamie Davies.
The last 10 minutes of the game saw the visitors take their try count to six. Former Hawks prop George Edgson picked up a loose ball to run in from 25 metres, some compensation as far as he was concerned as he had received a yellow card for foul play at the beginning of the second half after their flanker Dave Allen had touched down after 59 minutes and Gabbitass kicked an easy penalty from in front of the posts.
The Hawks finally conceded a penalty try in the last minutes of the game which took the score to 47-13 for illegally stopping a driving maul.
The Hawks are finding that there will be no easy matches in Division 1 and Dry Leas is no longer the fortress it once was
Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill, 14 Fred Pierrepoint, 13 Tom Allen, 12 Jack Bradford, 11 Simon Perry (Jamie Davies, 61 mins), 10 James Comben, 9 Connor Murphy (James Helliwell, 40 mins), 1 Tom West (Henry Sandys, 49 mins), 3 Dave Manning (Tom West, 71 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Jake Albon (Charlie Davey, Stapley 71 mins), 6 Tom Hall, 7 Sam Richardson, 8 Robbie Stapley (Albon, 71 mins).