Friday, 12 August 2022

Second-half fight back not enough as Hawks are left out in the cold

HENLEY HAWKS crashed to their sixth successive defeat at Coventry on Saturday in a match played

HENLEY HAWKS crashed to their sixth successive defeat at Coventry on Saturday in a match played out in wintry conditions.

The steady rain throughout was accompanied by an icy blast from the north west making conditions not conducive to handling rugby. Coventry seemed to cope with the elements better than the visitors in the first half.

At half-time it appeared that the Hawks were going down to another heavy defeat but they had the better of the second half where they scored 12 points to Coventry’s three despite playing into the wind.

The home side settled into the conditions quicker than the Hawks who had little possession due to difficulty, due to the conditions, and careless handling which included throwing the ball away indiscriminately when pressed.

The hosts took the lead after seven minutes when a break from a ruck 15 metres from the Hawks line by the home back row combined to put open side George Oliver over, brushing aside a feeble defence. This try was not converted as the kick was blown away by the gusty wind.

Play continued in the Hawks’ half and eventually this pressure had its reward when a Coventry centre burst through after a scrum, with the help of a powerful hand-off, was too much for the Hawks’ midfield to deal with. This time fly-half Jones secured a conversion close to the post to put the hosts 12-0 in the lead.

From the restart the Hawks made their first serious entry into home territory. Earning a rare penalty scrum half James Helliwell tapped it and was then stopped within 10 metres to give James Comben a penalty which he converted for the Hawks’ first points of the match.

Coventry immediately went on the attack and earned a penalty from a scrummaging offence by Hawks prop Tom West, after referee Bain was of the view that the Hawks were prepared to halt a drive by illegal means. West was issued with a yellow card and Coventry awarded a penalty try which with Jones’s conversion made the score 19-3.

Worse was to follow for the Hawks for on the restart Coventry ran the ball back at them and putting Knox in possession 30 metres from their own line left the strong running centre to run though five poor attempts to tackle to run in unopposed from the half way line, which with another conversion made it 26-3 at half-time.

Although the Hawks tackling had not been impressive in the first 40 minutes the visitors had played 20 minutes of these with 14 men as in addition to West the influential Matt Payne had also been sent to the sin bin after 18 minutes for obstruction.

The visitors were at full strength two minutes into the second half and it was then the pendulum of the game swung in their favour with the referee being advised by his assistants to send Allen Thomas and prop Chard Thorne to the sin bin within a minute of each other.

The Hawks immediately took advantage of their departures to execute a driving maul well over the Coventry line which enabled replacement Jake Albon to touch down his third try of the season.

With the back row of Tom Hall, Matt Payne and the ubiquitous Rob Bell now taking the game to Coventry at every opportunity, the Hawks now 26-10 in arrears after a successful conversion were now looking to reduce the home side’s lead even further. This they did after 64 minutes when Bell drove over Coventry’s line. At 26-15, Comben’s conversion attempt fell short against the wind but thoughts of a grandstand finish must have been in the minds of the Hawks’ supporters. However, the momentum was lost when they lost a scrum in an attacking position and the game came to a close deep in the Hawks’ 22 with hooker Tom Emery being awarded the referee’s fifth yellow card of the game for alleged stamping.

The Hawks’ encouraging second half performance was due to their forwards but this was not enhanced by their backs who again did not show a cutting edge in attack or resolute tackling in defence.

Henley Hawks: 15 James Davies (Tom Allen, 55 mins), 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Fred Pierrepoint, 12 Jack Bradford, 11 Simon Perry, 10 James Comben, 9 James Helliwell, 1 Tom West (Dave Manning, 55 mins; Henry Sandys, 69 mins), 2 Tom Emery, 3 Billy Moss (Tom West, 79 mins), 4 Dave Clements (Charlie Davey, 74 mins), 5 Charlie Davey (Jake Albon, 40 mins), 6 Tom Hall , 7 Rob Bell, 8 Matt Payne (Will Woodward, 69 mins).

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