Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Ill-discipline hampers Hawks as Hartpury blow them away

HENLEY HAWKS’ away match at Harptury went to form as the visitors, second from bottom, lost out

HENLEY HAWKS’ away match at Harptury went to form as the visitors, second from bottom, lost out by 32 points away to promotion-chasing Hartpury College in a match played in atrocious conditions last Saturday.

There was incessant rain throughout the match accompanied by a gale force wind marked by gusts of more than 50mph. In addition there was a large pool of water to which no attention had been made to disperse it in the middle of the match pitch.

The home club has an alternative pitch adjacent of G3 artificial standard which they had made ready for the game as was demonstrated by the floodlights that were switched on prior to kick-off time.

The Hawks management had not prepared their team for such a pitch which is played on with suitable footwear. There were three adjacent grass pitches but these were unavailable as they are under the control of Gloucester RFC for training purposes.

The game opened with a powerful cross wind influencing play but it was the Hawks who settled to the conditions the quicker and they took play to the Hartpury 22 where the home side conceded a penalty for failing to release the ball in a tackle and James Comben, in his first game for six weeks, struck a kick between the posts from 30 metres to give the Hawks the lead after two minutes. Comben increased this to six points three minutes later under similar circumstances.

Hartpury then got possession for the first time and when established in the Hawks 22 for the first time it became clear that the visitors were under pressure in the set scrums and the Hawks could only heel the ball from their put-ins on the retreat. This superiority was also soon felt in driving mauls and resulted in a try for Will Safe, the Hartpury number seven, converted by fullback Gareth Thompson, the first of six conversions and a penalty which gave him 15 points for the game.

The Hawks were again able to take the game to the Hartpury half where Comben was successful with a penalty from 30 metres on the half-hour mark to put the visitors 9-7 in the lead.

The Hawks were given an opportunity to make it 12-7 with a kick only a few yards further out but they took the option to kick to the corner and as has happened on a number of occasions this season failed to win the attacking line-out.

This was a turning point in the first half for immediately a clearance kick deep into the Hawks 22 was knocked on and a drive for the line from the resultant scrum gave the opportunity for centre Luke Eves to touch down a converted try to put Hartpury 12-9 in the lead. They held on to this despite number eight Gareth Evans being given a yellow card which was matched by Hawks’ Billy Moss five minutes later which gave Thompson the chance to score a penalty.

Hartpury were 20-9 in the lead at the start of the second half through a converted try by Mark Harrison which was quickly followed by one for Ben Vellacott who was the instigator of many attacks bursting away from the base of the scrum as the game swung in the home side’s favour with some less than effective tackling by the Hawks.

Tries followed on with little delay by wing Jonas Mikalcuis and replacement prop Nathan Taylor. The Hawks’ defensive aspirations at this stage of the game were not helped by the departure to the sin bin of both James Helliwell and Moss within seven minutes of each other.

Such ill discipline meant the Hawks were first of all reduced to 13 as from 47 minutes with Moss now taking no further part in the game for his second offence. They were later reduced to 13 again after 58 minutes when Rob Bell was also given a yellow card for an early tackle.

On his return he was involved in a spirited rally by the Hawks when they drove to the Hartpury line from half-way for the number seven to touch down his seventh try of the season to make the score 48-16 with a conversion by Connor Murphy.

This is a game that the players and the sodden spectators will recall reluctantly. It could be summarised as a sandwich as far as the Hawks were concerned scoring first and last with an indigestible filling!

Henley Hawks: 15 James Davies, 14 Xavier Andre (Henry Sandys, 40 mins; Jake Randall, 70 mins), 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Tom Allen (Julian Watkins, 50 mins), 11 Jake Randall (Andre, 52 mins), 10 James Comben (Connor Murphy, 36 mins), 9 James Helliwell, 1 Billy Moss, 2 Curtis Langford, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Charlie Davey, 6 Jack Willis, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Jake Albon.

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