Sunday, 29 November 2020

Hawks slip further down table following Esher loss

HENLEY HAWKS suffered their seventh successive defeat as their disappointing form continued after they conceded six tries at

HENLEY HAWKS suffered their seventh successive defeat as their disappointing form continued after they conceded six tries at home to Esher last Saturday.

The hosts avoided a whitewash when scrum-half Connor Murphy scored a try in the 70th minute of the game. The final result reflected the position of the clubs in the table, Esher fourth from top and the Hawks now second from bottom.

After an encouraging performance the previous week at Coventry, when they had the better of the second half after outscoring the hosts, the Hawks approached this game with the intention not to play catch-up rugby but this strategy proved to be beyond them from the very start of the game.

In the first scrum they found the strong robust pack had them in retreat as they were quick to exert early pressure on the Hawks eight. Although referee Boscawen detected that on a couple of occasions they applied this too early they had the Hawks on the back foot from the beginning of the game and this was the case for its entirety. The hosts were also second best in the line-outs although the windy conditions did not help.

When they had the put-in at the scrums the Hawks had little or no opportunity to get quality possession to test the visitors’ defence and they would not have any possession at all if it had not been for the skill of Matt Payne at number eight to secure the ball on the retreat.

Under such pressure in their own 22 an early score by the visitors was bound to be the result and after 13 minutes Esher scrum-half Andrew Garner was able to steal away from a quickly taken penalty to score an unconverted try.

The Hawks struggled to gain territory and after a clearance kick was charged down they conceded a penalty which Esher fly-half Paul Roberts was able to convert despite the difficult gusty windy conditions to make the score 8-0 after 23 minutes. The Hawks were at a disadvantage playing into the wind in the first half and despite not having any quality possession and an ability to retain it their defence held out until half-time approached. This was due to some extent to fly-half James Comben’s good length with clearance kicks for touch into the wind.

The Hawks were also frustrated when their forwards’ efforts to pick and go were frustrated by the referee’s decisions to penalise them for not releasing the ball on the ground. The contest in these ruck situations with a robust Esher pack led to the numbers six of each side, Tom Hall (Henley) and Peter Synott (Esher), being given yellow cards after 31 minutes.

On the verge of half-time the Hawks defence was breached twice in four minutes. Crucial to this was an injury to Hawks’ influential flanker Rob Bell which assisted Esher scrum half Garner scoring his second try and this was followed by the Hawks losing their own line-out on the restart on the Esher 40 metre line which was used by their backs sweeping 50 metres across field.

Roberts supported this effectively to score a try which he converted to make it 20-0 at half-time. This score came as the Hawks were down to 13 players against Esher’s 14 as Dave Clement had just previously been despatched to a crowded sinbin.

Any chance of a second half rally soon disappeared. The Hawks were denied any worthwhile possession for the first 30 minutes which was spent in their half.

The Hawks gave away penalties in desperate if not always effective defence. Four minutes into the half the visitors scored their best try of the game when with good handling and passing they moved the ball from left to the strong running Andrew Wright who scored for Roberts to convert.

Esher continued to press and 20 minutes later replacement Oliver Marriott crashed over for Roberts to make his third conversion of the game.

The Hawks at last shook off the shackles imposed on them by a well organised Esher side. As time moved to the closure of the half the Hawks mounted successive pick and go thrusts and mauls and put pressure on the Esher defence. A surge 10 metres from the visitors’ line was supported by the Hawks’ most effective outside the lively Murphy who touched down to make it 34-5 with 10 minutes remaining.

Esher returned to the attack and the Hawks’ poor defence was exposed when a handling move down the left saw Joseph Brown, the visitors’ centre, brush away a flailing arm of a tackle for his side’s sixth try which was not converted.

The remaining five minutes of the game ended in further poor discipline by the Hawks who collected two further yellow cards for Curtis Langdon and Hall.

Henley Hawks: 15 Tom Allen, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Fred Pierrepoint, 12 Jack Bradford, 11 Jake Randall, 10 James Comben (Liam O’Neill, 47 mins), 9 Connor Murphy (James Helliwell, 74 mins), 1 Billy Moss (Tom West, 40 mins), 2 Tom Emery (Curtis Langdon, 61 mins), 3 Dave Manning (Billy Moss, 67 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Jake Albon (Charlie Davey, 61 mins), 6 Tom Hall, 7 Rob Bell (Charley Davey, 38-40 mins), 8 Matt Payne.

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