Saturday, 28 November 2020

Strang scores brace as Hawks hit back to defeat Loughborough

HENLEY HAWKS pulled off a deserved victory against Loughborough Students at Dry Leas last Saturday as they

HENLEY HAWKS pulled off a deserved victory against Loughborough Students at Dry Leas last Saturday as they completed the double against their National Division 1 opponents.

The match was a fascinating game in that it was a mirror of the match the previous Saturday. In the game at Wharfedale the Hawks dominated the scoring in the first half leading 14-3 until the brink of half-time but then being turned over 16-3 in the second to lose 26-17.

On Saturday the Hawks were 14-3 down at half-time but they rallied in the second 40 minutes to win the half 22-5 and run out 25-19 winners.

The first half could be summed up as a one of three phases. The Hawks started well and the first 10 minutes were spent firmly in the visitors’ territory. Although the Hawks had the majority of possession they could not make a great impression on a well organised defence and their only score was a penalty by Hawks’ scrum-half Connor Murphy from in front of the posts for offside after a run into the 22 by fullback James Davies.

The second phase saw the Students in the ascendancy and their swift running backs brought out the best in the Hawks’ defence. Fullback Tom James was quick to join in attacks in midfield and it was from one of these he opened the Students scoring although there was a suspicion of obstruction as the move developed. The scorer converted his own try to put Loughborough 7-3 in the lead after 16 minutes. Still in the ascendancy the visitors kept up the pressure and seven minutes later increased their lead when they drove over the Hawks line following a line out in the corner, from a penalty for off-side, which led to prop George Davis touching down.



The final quarter of the half was spent in a corridor 20 metres wide from the Students’ line. Much of this period was spent with the Hawks pack driving to go over the visitors’ line which they defended manfully by fair means or foul. They succeeded in keeping the Hawks at bay on five occasions by collapsing the advance of the Hawks’ maul. This appeared to be an illegal defence which was acknowledged by the referee who awarded five penalties but refused to award a penalty try.

Eventually referee Tom Davis gave Loughborough number seven Andrew Boyce a yellow card but a sequence of events on the visitors line came to an end on the half-time whistle when the Hawks lost a set scrum and the visitors made the ball dead with a kick to touch.

The half-time break was used by the Hawks coaches to revitalise the Hawks forward play and immediately they began to drive the visitors back with ball on the ground and this had the effect of setting them up to score a try for prop Billy Moss to pick up and drive over. Murphy’s conversion put the Hawks four points in arrears at 14-10. The Hawks had introduced Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas at centre at half-time, a bold experiment for the back row forward who was making his debut in that position, but he was soon able to demonstrate in both defence and attack the skills he has acquired in his training with the England Sevens squad as he went on a 40 metre break down the centre of the pitch and could have increased the Hawks tally had it been better supported.

The Hawks’ forward play, with Jake Albon managing the line-out from Tom Emery’s accurate throwing, saw the Hawks producing better controlled drives and it was a move from one of these that saw fly-half Basil Strang, one of a duo, with Murphy, of effective kicking half-backs, to burst through to score his first of a brace of tries.

For the first time in the game the Hawks were in the lead 17-14 but midway through the half they again came close to being on a losing side when a break down the right by Loughborough looked to have earned a third try but was recalled for a forward pass. Loughborough had regained the lead at 19-17 but the Hawks breathed a little easier when Murphy kicked a penalty from close to the posts to give them a 20-19 lead.

The Hawks extended this two minutes later when in a forward drive in front of the visitors’ posts they switched the ball to the backs and Strang running on an angle stormed over for the winning try which although Murphy narrowly missed the conversion in a swirling wind, gave the Hawks an important victory in their struggle to avoid relegation.

Henley Hawks: 15 James Davies, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Tom Allen (Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, 40 mins), 11 Jake Randall, 10 Basil Strang, 9 Connor Murphy, 1 Billy Moss (Dave Manning, 29 mins), 2 Tom Emery, 3 Henry Sandys (Billy Moss, 54 mins), 5 Dave Clements (Jake Albon, 45 mins), 6 Jack Willis, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Julian Watkins.



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