Wednesday, 02 December 2020

Hawks fail to make most of their numerical advantage

HENLEY HAWKS slipped to their 16th National Division 1 defeat of the season at Plymouth Albion

HENLEY HAWKS slipped to their 16th National Division 1 defeat of the season at Plymouth Albion on Saturday.

The last time these two sides met was in 2005 when they were in the second tier of English rugby. This encounter at the Brickfields was played out in damp drizzly Devon weather on a firm pitch with a steady westerly breeze of which the Hawks had the advantage in the first half.

The Hawks took the game to the Albion in the opening minutes but were rocked back on their heels after five minutes when fullback James Davies gave away what can best be described as an ‘own goal’. When collecting a relieving Albion kick on the Hawks’ 22 line Davies miscued a responding kick, which hardly took off, to an unmarked trio of Plymouth players who combined with ease to send lock Nile Dacres over for a try unopposed. Fullback Matt Shepherd converted to give the home side a 7-0 advantage.

The Hawks immediately responded with their best period of play of the game. The pack controlled the set scrums and with this base produced a series of driving mauls which consisted of 11 phases and then another five which resulted in hooker Tom Emery being driven over for his second try of the season. Basil Strang’s conversion attempt hit an upright and bounced away from the posts making the score 7-5 in favour of Albion.

Shortly after this there was an altercation in midfield which resulted in Plymouth centre Marc Koteczky being given a red card and Hawks’ Tom Hall a yellow. Strang put the Hawks 8-7 ahead with a penalty from 35 metres central to the posts.

With the advantage of an extra player the Hawks had an opportunity to build on this but they failed to do so. Shepherd restored Albion’s lead with a penalty to give the hosts a 10-8 lead at half-time.

From the start of the second half it became apparent that the Hawks’ superiority in scrummaging and forward play had disappeared and within 10 minutes Plymouth took advantage of a thrust from a scrum to send wing Robin Wedlake down the blind side to give Albion a 15-8 lead.

Plymouth were now on top in contrast to the first half and were growing in confidence. With the strong running of scrum-half Cameron Setter they were able to effectively turn over the Hawks attacks and take the game deep into the Hawks’ half which led to a try for wing Ethan Ford converted by Shepherd which made the score 22-8.

The Hawks showed glimpses of scoring through their wings Xavier Andre, with a strong run of 35 metres down the right and Jake Randall, down the left when a kick and chase close to touch enabled him to beat the Albion defence to the ball in the dead ball area but not the boundary of the latter.

Albion had better fortune in scoring their fourth try, and a bonus point, after finishing a fumbling passing movement which ended with a second try for the strong running Ford and a final score of 27-8. The Hawks were handicapped by the late withdrawal of scrum-half Connor Murphy and his resultant replacement Tom Allen being pressed into service despite a stomach problem. However the play of centre Connor Dolan, who is available for the rest of the season, may contribute to better results in the important games to come.

Henley Hawks: 15 Jamie Davies (Ben Palmer, 51 mins), 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill (Louis Flynn, 59 mins), 12 Connor Dolan, 11 Jake Randall, (Moss, 62-73 mins), 10 Basil Strang, 9 Tom Allen (O’Neill, 66 mins), 1 Dave Manning, 2 Tom Emery (Curtiss Langdon, 63 mins), 3 Henry Sandys (Billy Moss, 18-49 mins), 4 Dave Clements, 5 Charlie Davey (Scott White, 63 mins), 6 Tom Hall, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Julian Franklin.

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