Sunday, 14 August 2022

Injuries take toll as Hawks make mistakes

THE head coach of Henley Hawks says the team is in a “really good place” despite

THE head coach of Henley Hawks says the team is in a “really good place” despite a testing first two months in National League 1.

The Hawks, who won promotion last season have three wins, four defeats and a draw from their first eight games and sit 11th in the division.

But Pete Davies says he is pleased with performances after a baptism of fire at the start of the season, in which they have played five of the league’s top six sides.

He said: “We realised this season was going to be difficult and we had a particularly tough start with the opposition we have faced. It’s not been the easiest of introductions but we are really pleased with the performances and the strength of the squad.

“To get three wins is a pretty good return, particularly when you consider the quality of the opposition. To get those teams out of the way is a good thing and we think we’re in a really good place.”

The Hawks lost 54-5 to Richmond on Saturday and have now conceded a league-high 285 points this term — 100 of which were conceded in their last two fixtures. But Davies says all round play has been good and the standard of the league means small errors are punished.

He said: “The defensive structure has actually been very good. We have conceded quite a few points in a couple of games but that was against very good opposition.

“It goes to prove there are very small margins in this league and when you make a mistake teams will punish you. You have to be on top of your game to get victories.

“We need a little more consistency, all teams need that. We have learned lessons really quickly in this league and trying to limit the errors is key. When we play well and are on top of our game in terms of concentration and execution we are as good as any team but doing that for the whole 80 minutes is crucial. When we looked back at the videos it’s very very small mistakes which you get punished for. We need to tighten up in a few areas and quite quickly we will get victories. When we get it right we can win games.” The Hawks have also struggled with injuries this term, losing captain Dave Clements and kicker James Comben for several games earlier this season. In their last home against Hartpury College, where the Hawks lost 46-0, Davies says he had just three of his first choice eight in the pack available.

He said: “There aren’t many teams in the league without injury crises at the moment. It’s a little bit of luck but it’s also about squad depth. We had a lot of injuries a couple of weeks ago.

“For the first 40 minutes against Hartpury we were competitive and could arguably have been ahead at half-time. But the strength in depth wasn’t there, I didn’t have the quality to come off the bench and the conditioning of those guys wasn’t as good as the front line players. We were punished because of that.

“We will take the positives from that, there were seven or eight players who got exposure to the first team and they will learn lots from that. The responses to defeats have been really good, we have had a few big defeats from the top teams in the league who have punished us.”

The Hawks have recently signed Will Robinson, Alan Awcock and Billy Moss from London Welsh and are also expecting to welcome back four players from the International Defence Rugby Competition, a tournament for the armed forces held alongside this year’s World Cup.

Davies says when he has a full complement of players available he is confident the Hawks will win games.

He said: “We are strengthening the squad with three or four players back from injury and will have Dave Manning, Tom Gardner, Lloyd Owen and Sam Richardson from the armed forces World Cup soon.

“In a week’s time I’m hoping to pick from a full squad and that’s when I want to be judged.”

The Hawks, without a fixture this weekend, are next in action on November 7 when they entertain Plymouth Albion.

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