HENLEY HAWKS suffered another disappointing result as they lost out to relegation rivals Wharfedale last Saturday despite leading 14-10 at half-time
Wharfedale 26, Henley Hawks 17
HENLEY HAWKS suffered another disappointing result as they lost out to relegation rivals Wharfedale last Saturday despite leading 14-10 at half-time.
Once again the Hawks came away without any points as the home side took their opportunities thanks to the reliable boot of fullback James Guy who put in a faultless kicking display where he scored 13 points.
For the majority of the first half the Hawks were in the lead thanks to tries by Tom Bliss and Tom Hall, both of which were converted by Liam O’Neill. During this period the Hawks were quick to turn possession into points and after 23 minutes they led 14-3.
Charles Davey was at that time enjoying his best game since joining the Hawks at the beginning of the season as his presence in the line-out gave them secure possession. He was also showing aggression in the loose and it was no great surprise when he burst free in the middle of the park and made 30 metres’ progress before a well-judged off-load put Bliss free to sprint away to touch down under the posts which with a successful conversion put the Hawks seven points in the lead.
Although the visitors were quick to use their hands to press home this advantage they fumbled passes to let Wharfedale off the hook. However, some strong running by fullback James Davies caused the home defence problems as the Hawks kept Wharfedale in their own half.
Davies then broke through in midfield and the home side were unable to stop him and eventually he was able to unload to flanker Hall on their 22 who broke clear and touched down under the posts for O’Neill again to add the extras.
This made the score 14-3 as Wharfedale had scored a penalty from a straightforward kick from in front of the posts by Guy when the Hawks got into a muddle trying to develop a passing movement but were guilty of obstruction by crossing.
The game had settled down after a feisty beginning but referee Roberts dealt with flare-ups without the issue of disciplinary cards. However when the veteran Rob Baldwin knocked Hawks’ fly-half Tom Allen off his feet when not in possession the visitors had the opportunity to control the forward play as he was given a yellow card. Despite immediately taking a heel against the head they could not put the home eight under pressure.
As the game moved towards half-time Wharfedale were gaining a slight superiority in the scrums and mauls. This was confirmed when at a scrum 10 metres out the Hawks heeled but their attempted clearance kick was charged down and Jordan Poole was able to fall on a favourable bounce which kicker Guy turned into seven points so that the Hawks’ advantage was reduced to four points.
Scores on the half-time whistle can often serve to alter the balance of a game and so it proved in this encounter. The Hawks now lost the initiative and from then on found it difficult to play in home territory.
This reversal of fortunes was due to the injuries the visitors suffered after half-time of scrum-half Bliss and flanker Hall who were both forced to leave the field with ankle injuries. Wing Xavier Andre was also forced off by injury.
The result of the injuries meant most of the play was now within 30 metres of the Hawks’ line and their decision making also suffered under such pressure. They were unable to kick their way out of trouble attempting to run the ball instead.
Such pressure inevitably led to errors and when a clearance kick was again charged down Wharfedale were able to secure the ball for Cameron Hudson to touch down and with Guy having kicked a penalty a few minutes earlier as well as the conversion of this try.
The Hawks were only able to put pressure on the home defence for a brief period when O’Neill kicked a penalty from in front of the posts but the chances of securing a bonus point disappeared with Guy’s two late penalties.
The Hawks fate was sealed when they were reduced to 13 men with Davey and Simon Perry being sent to the sin bin for technical offences.
There is no doubt that the Hawks are a better side than the latest series of results but they have got to prove this by getting points on the board. If they do not do so in the immediate forthcoming fixtures life in Division 1 will be short.
Henley Hawks: 15 James Davies, 14 Xavier Andre (Elliott Cox, 54 mins), 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Simon Perry, 11 Jake Randall, 10 Tom Allen, 9 Tom Bliss (James Helliwell, 38 mins), 1 Dave Manning, 2 Tom Emery (Curtiss Langdon, 59 mins), 3 Henry Sandys (Harry Jackson, 59 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Charles Davey, 6 Tom Hall (Scott White, 62 mins), 7 Rob Bell, 8 Julian Watkins (Tom Emery, 72 mins).