Wednesday, 02 December 2020

Depleted Hawks lose their way as Ionians ease to comfortable win

INJURY-HIT Henley Hawks went down to their fourth consecutive defeat away at Hull Ionians last Saturday.

INJURY-HIT Henley Hawks went down to their fourth consecutive defeat away at Hull Ionians last Saturday.

Going into the game the visitors were further weakened as two of their regular back row — Robbie Stapley, the side’s leading try scorer, and Tom Hall — were ruled out through injuries suffered against Plymouth Albion the previous week.

This made it 15 players unavailable for selection, all but five of them through injury. The result was that they struggled to get equality with a robust Ionians pack who dominated their own line-outs with a 100 per cent record while the Hawks’ performance on their own throw was variable.

As far as set scrums were concerned referee Leahy’s management was difficult to interpret as Ionians were permitted frequent to turn them immediately after impact. The home side were on top with their expertise in driving mauls which were the instrument of two of their tries.

Forward dominance is the source of most victories but the Hull side also showed ability in their back play to make the most of their pre-eminence up front.

The game started brightly for the Hawks as they took the lead after two minutes. This was initiated by a crunching tackle by centre Fred Pierrepoint on his opposite number who lost control of the ball and this was seized upon by Jack Bradford who burst away from half way with just fullback David Hewitt to beat. When challenged he put in a well timed pass to wing Simon Perry who was up in support and raced away to touch down unopposed. James Comben’s conversion slid wide past the uprights.

The Hawks’ five point lead was short lived as the Ionians were soon established in the visitors’ territory. A moving of the ball right to left and a deft grubber kick in the centre defeated the Hawks’ cover and centre Alex Crockett touched down to equalise.

Ten minutes later the hosts showed the same skill to fasten on to a grubber kick for wing Sam Wilson to score and with the conversion by scrum-half Isaac Green the home side now led 12-5. The kicker then increased the Ionians lead to 15-5 with a penalty when Hawks’ flanker Iwan Davies came in at the side to apprehend a Hull driving maul to be given a yellow card.

With forwards so depleted the Hull side began to use their advantage to use the driving maul frequently and this pressure eventually resulted in a successful thrust over the Hawks line for skipper and number seven Will Foden touching down after 31 minutes to make the half-time score 20-5.

At the start of the first half the Hawks promised again to get an early score. They developed a good handling move right to left and an overlap was available close to the touchline but despite two attempts to score they were thwarted.

Ionians quickly moved the game to the other end of the pitch and achieved a breach in the Hawks defence by effectively using a driving maul from their dominant line-out play for Foden to score his second try of the game. Green was on target again with the conversion to take the score to 27-5 with a bonus point in the bag.

The Hawks were again down to 14 players as flanker Ollie Spanswick had been given a yellow card three minutes before half-time meaning the visitors were a man down for almost all of the second quarter of the game.

Now with a full complement the Hawks established themselves close to the Hull line and pressed hard for a dozen minutes to drive over but they could not, despite all their effort, find a hole in the home defences.

When this seige was lifted the Ionians created their best try of the game when they started a handling move 30 metres out and with accurate and well timed passing drew the Hawks defence and gave centre Ben Winterburn a gap to exploit and cross for his side’s fifth try of the match. The Hawks had a chance to score a second try when Perry adroitly intercepted a pass on the Hawks 22 but was unable to get away and his supporting pass went to ground.

Henley Hawks: 15 Liam O’Neill, 14 Simon Perry, 13 Fred Pierrepoint, 12 Jack Bradford, 11 Xavier Andre, 10 James Comben (Iwan Davies, 77 mins), 9 James Helliwell, 1 Tom West (Dave Manning, 49 mins), 2 Tom Emery (Ed Church, 57 mins), 3 Dave Manning (Billy Moss, 26 mins; Tom West, 57 mins), 4 Will Woodward (Ollie Spanswick, 21 mins), 5 Charlie Davey, 6 Dave Clements, 7 Iwan Davies (Tommy Haynes, 62 mins), 8 Sam Richardson.

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