Thursday, 18 August 2022

Cinderford’s late conversion enough to sink gallant Bulls

VISITING Henley Bulls lost out at Cinderford United last Saturday in a tight match as the momentum swung

VISITING Henley Bulls lost out at Cinderford United last Saturday in a tight match as the momentum swung along with the local weather conditions.

On a waterlogged surface both sides played ambitiously expansive rugby throughout and were only separated by a place kick from a tight angle that carried on the following wind late on.

The Bulls pressed for an early advantage, managing to eliminate the handling errors despite the testing conditions and soon forced a penalty within easy range. Unfortunately fly-half Roddy Giles lost stability during the kick and sent the attempt wide to the right.

Centre pairing Toby Davies and Andrew Bailey played a key role in forcing multiple handling errors from the Cinderford midfield in a defensive role throughout the first half and with the Bulls pack getting the upper hand in regenerating possession it wasn’t long before Bailey spotted an opportunity to pick and drive over the line from a ruck wide out on the left to put the Bulls ahead.

Despite the early slip Giles and scrum half Fred Taylor played a key role in keeping the Bulls in the driving seat throughout the first half and soon after Giles made amends landing a lengthy angled conversion to make the score 7-0.

Desperate attempts to relieve the pressure the Bulls pack were applying in the loose allowed Giles an opportunity to add three more points from a penalty which he did with aplomb, but it came at a cost as Joel Thomas the giant Bulls wing whose break had created the opportunity was forced off with an ankle injury to be replaced by Ross Lewis.

Not to be hindered by the loss of Thomas the Bulls then exploited an opportunity on the right flank as Davies threaded a pass which Bailey stretched to collect but then kindly ricocheted into the path of debutant fullback Josh Palmer whose footballing skills and pace became evident as he kicked through and won the race to the line to score the Bulls’ second try.

With three minutes of the half remaining and with a 15-0 lead the Bulls defence creaked for the first time and in giving up field position with a penalty, Cinderford’s driving line-out skills became a factor for the first time as they ploughed over for their first score which went unconverted.

Just prior to half-time the Bulls lost prop Max Chandler with a knee injury, the second of what was becoming a long and rather influential casualty list.

Throughout the second half both packs did well to retain possession on their own set piece but the weather conditions had now changed in favour of Cinderford as momentum began to swing.

Influential hooker Harry Jackson was forced to take a short break for a concussion test, replaced by Pete Browning and Ross Lewis was also forced to retire with a dead leg making way for Toby Howe.

A second unconverted try resulted from sustained pressure from Cinderford and some good footwork from the Cinderford wing who danced through several tackles saw him put a colleague over in the left corner to bring them within a score of the slowly depleting Bulls.

Will Woodward was a rock at the base of the Henley scrum which was retreating on occasion and with flanker Scott White bursting upfield in support of his backs the Bulls continued to examine the Cinderford defence but with less frequency.

With 20 minutes remaining and the Bulls camped precariously on their own line their discipline finally lapsed and captain Tom Bartlett suffered the wrath of the official with a yellow card. Seconds later Charlie Nixon was forced to leave the Bulls’ engine room to run without him as he suffered an ankle injury at the bottom of a ruck and whilst the remaining Bulls fought valiantly to arrest the onslaught of the Cinderford pack they couldn’t resist and they eventually committed enough Bulls to allow an overlap wide out on the left to equal the scores.

Cinderford landed the telling blow with a conversion from a difficult angle to take the lead and despite desperate attempts from Toby Davies and Sam Beckett late on to breach the United wall they suffered a cruel defeat.

Henley Bulls: Max Chandler (Jonny Kilgannon, 39 mins), Harry Jackson (Pete Browning, 43-58 mins), Sam Beckett, Tom Bartlett, Charlie Nixon (Ross Gilbert, 59 mins), Ross Gilbert (Rory McMeekan, 40 mins), Scott White, Will Woodward, Fred Taylor, Roddy Giles, Callum Cooke, Toby Davies, Andrew Bailey, Joel Thomas (Ross Lewis 23 mins, Toby Howe 51 mins), Joshua Palmer.

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