HENLEY HAWKS continued to show improved all round form against what is considered one if not the strongest
HENLEY HAWKS continued to show improved all round form against what is considered one if not the strongest side in National 1 on Saturday at Dry Leas despite losing out 38-16.
The visitors field one of the biggest packs in the league and their physical superiority was the telling factor on the final result. This was given greater emphasis in the final quarter of the game when the Hawks were reduced to 14 players.
The Hawks got off on the wrong foot when Basil Strang’s kick-off drifted into touch. This gave Ampthill the opportunity to establish themselves in and about the Hawks’ 22. They pressurised their defence and after six minutes the hosts conceded a try when centre Max Wilkins burst through from a handling movement to touch down which the Canadian international fullback James Pritchard had no difficulty in converting.
The Hawks took the game into the Ampthill half in response. They were not overawed by the boisterous visitors’ pack and the hard working back row of Rob Bell, Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas and Tom Hall were taking the game to the opposition.
A move involving fullback James Davies, Hall and scrum-half Tom Bliss took play to Ampthill’s 10 metre area close to touch and gave Bell the opportunity to force his way over for his sixth try in seven games. Strang was unable to convert from close to touch but was able to kick a penalty in the 21st minute from 40 metres to give the Hawks an 8-7 lead.
The powerful boot of the fly-half was able to clear the Hawks’ lines when pressed but after establishing themselves in Hawks’ territory and shunning the opportunity to increase their lead through the accuracy of Pritchard, Ampthill retook the lead when they turned over Hawks’ ball at a line-out and flanker Matt Burke touched down a converted try.
Immediately Strang kept Henley in touch with his second penalty to leave the Hawks just three points behind their opponents at the half-time, 14-11.
The visitors were soon on the attack after the break and a threatening passing movement became a reality when the versatile and powerful running prop Ralph Adams-Hale broke through a hard tackling defence to score a try which Pritchard converted to make it 21-11.
The Hawks had found it difficult to turn their hard-earned possession into points but within four minutes they created a scoring opportunity when they developed a handling movement down the left after a swerving run down by Hirskyj-Douglas to put wing Jake Randall away. When seemingly bound to be thrown into touch he kicked ahead and beat the cover defence to touch down. With no conversion the score now stood in Ampthill’s favour at 21-16.
The game then swung away from the Hawks in the last quarter when in an attacking position prop Dave Manning was given a yellow card for entering a ruck from the side a metre from their line. From then to the end of the game the Hawks were under the cosh from the visitors’ pack apart from a 30 metre break by Hirskyj-Douglas.
The powerful Ampthill pack took advantage of a tiring depleted Hawks side. They added to their score when an unprotected blind side led to a drive over the Hawks’ line by replacement flanker Sid Blackmore who made it a brace when touching down the final score in the last minutes of the game. These scores sandwiched a try by scrum-half Gavin Williams who finished off a break by Pritchard who collected a clearance kick by the Hawks deep in his own half with the home defence wrong-footed.
The Hawks have now suffered three defeats in matches that they could well have earned bonus points. This latest setback has seen the Hawks slip to second from bottom in the league although they do have a game in hand on most of their rivals.
Henley Hawks: 15 James Davies, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Tom Allen (Ben Palmer, 74 mins), 11 Jake Randall, 10 Basil Strang, 9 Tom Bliss, 1 Billy Moss (Henry Sandys 44 mins, Andre 70 mins), 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning (Andre, 78 mins), 4 Dave Clements (Julian Watkins, 60-64 mins), 5 Charlie Davey, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas.