DARLINGTON returned north having managed to win a game which the Hawks had for the taking last Saturday
Henley Hawks 11, Darlington Mowden Park 19
DARLINGTON returned north having managed to win a game which the Hawks had for the taking last Saturday.
The home side played with a naivety, often taking the wrong options which they will have to shrug off if they are to avoid relegation from National Division 1.
The Hawks, 19-6 down at half-time, won the second half 5-0. They failed to turn the dominance that their forwards exercised for the second 40 minutes of a game which was played in wet wintry conditions although the Dry Leas pitch was playable without being reduced to a muddy morass by any means.
The foundations of a disappointing result were laid at the start of the game when Mowden Park took advantage of the Hawks’ hesitant defence. Their tackling was indecisive as it had difficulty in the centre in coping with backs breaking through with well supported running taking advantage of flat passing.
At this stage much of the game was played in Hawks’ territory and after just nine minutes some aggressive running by Park’s second row Robert Conquest, supporting a break by scrum-half Bruno Bravo, resulted in him scoring the first of a brace of tries which were converted by Warren Seals.
The fly-half increased this side’s lead within five minutes when he, faced with prop forward cover, slid past a flaying arm to make the score 12-0.
Even at this time the visitors struggled for equality in set scrums which they countered by early pushing on the put-in which was observed by the referee Phil Davies who recognised this by the award of penalties.
The Hawks began to make progress into the visitors’ half and took advantage of a penalty awarded in front of the posts for Connor Murphy to score three points with an impressive kick from 40 metres.
Park continued to be challenged by the Hawks forwards, particularly in the set scrums, and they gave away a series of penalties which with accurate kicks to touch could well have put the visitors under pressure.
However, Hawks fly-half Ben Palmer missed touch with three kicks which Darlington were able to not only clear their lines but put pressure back on the Hawks defence. Palmer was successful with a penalty 30 metres from the Park posts to reduce their lead to 12-6 after 30 minutes.
As half-time approached the visitors again put pressure in the Hawks’ line and Conquest was able to drive over for his second try which Seals converted to make the score 19-6.
Immediately from the start of the second half the Hawks established themselves in the Park’s half. Although their possession from line-outs was variable number eight Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas obtained ball from long throws to the back of the line. The forwards were able to mount effective driving mauls and with telling picking made progress from rucks.
The Hawks were able to establish themselves in the 10 metre area just short of the Park line. A half-dozen charges were rebuffed but when they transferred the ball across field with some well timed passes centre Liam O’Neill had the opportunity to use his speed to out pace the defence to touch down close to touch. Murphy was unable to convert and having taken over kicking duties from Palmer he successfully drove the visitors back into their half with good accurate kicking.
The Hawks’ forward domination was not used effectively enough to create further scoring chances. The best attacking moment came when Hawks’ fullback Basil Strang collected a Park clearance kick on the Hawks’ 22 and used his long striding pace and the use of a side step advanced to the visitors’ 10 metre line before being tackled.
The fullback was also instrumental in preventing Park increasing their lead and scoring a bonus point when a promising Hawks attacking position 30 metres from Darlington’s line faltered when their overthrow from a line-out was kicked and chased deep into the Hawks’ half and when the ball was 10 metres from their line was fallen upon by Strang which was the prelude to the end of the game.
The Hawks will have considered themselves unfortunate not to earn at least a bonus point from this game.
15 Basil Strang,
14 Xavier Andre (Simon Perry, 58 mins),
13 Liam O’Neill,
12 Tom Allen,
11 Jake Randall,
10 Ben Palmer,
9 Connor Murphy,
1 Billy Moss (Dave Manning, 36 mins),
2 Tom Emery,
3 Henry Sandys,
4 Dave Clements,
5 Charlie Davey,
7 Tom Hall (Julian Watkins, 56 mins),
8 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas.