Saturday, 20 August 2022

Church bell tolls for Henley as they fail to take chances

HENLEY Hawks travelled to the Lytham coast knowing that victory was essential if they were going

HENLEY Hawks travelled to the Lytham coast knowing that victory was essential if they were going to have a chance to stay in National Division 1.

That they lost this game meant that they will be in Division 2 (South) but they lost out because they failed to make the most of their opportunities to score whilst Fylde made the most of theirs.

The Hawks put up a strong second-half performance after being down 28-14 at half-time and thus drawing the second 40 minutes 7-7.

This performance was also a meritorious one for they played the whole of the game without any replacements in the forwards which is a rarity as not known since the introduction of “rolling substitutes” three seasons ago. A situation forced on them to some extent by late alterations to the selected squad.

The first quarter of the game illustrated well the overall pattern of the game with Fylde making the most of their opportunities and the Hawks struggling to do so.

In the first five minutes the Hawks took the game well into the Fylde 22. They were unable to turn pressure by forward driving to create a score.

However, the game, when switched to the Hawks territory, saw the Lancashire side take the lead when player coach Paul Arnold crashed over for a try converted by fly-half Chris Johnson. The Hawks responded by putting pressure on the home line and after phases flanker Idwal Davies crossed to make the score 7-7 with a conversion by scrum-half Connor Murphy.

But, unfortunately, when Flyde took play immediately to the Hawks 22 they were presented with an opportunity to score when the Hawks tried to run the ball out of defence and a floated pass to the wing turned out to be a gift for an interception which was seized upon by Johnson who converted his try to make the score 14-7.

Worse was to immediately follow when a Hawks clearance kick went to Oliver Brennand, Fylde’s top scoring left wing, the quickest man on the field, who, with a skilful kick ahead collected it to race 40 metres to score a try which was again converted by Johnson.

The Hawks’ misery was completed when centre and skipper Chris Briers intercepted a pass on the Hawks 22 to race in unopposed which with another conversion took the score to 28-7.

The Hawks were not being outplayed, therefore, but short of basic skills. They were shaken but stirred into action. They were not being outplayed in the forwards holding their own in the set scrums, with a reliable service from the line-outs.

However on one occasion they failed to make the most of a scoring opportunity from a touch near the Fylde line which they for once failed to gather as a prelude to driving over.

On half-time, after exacting pressure on the Fylde line, scrum-half Murphy sniping away at the base of scrum and ruck crossed near the Fylde posts which with his conversion made the score at the break 28-14.

Unfortunately, straight after the break, wing Brennan struck again when he ran in a second try which was converted by Gareth Rawlings who had replaced Johnson to 35-14.

The Hawks were by no means beaten after this further reverse. They were prepared to run the ball out of defence, led in chiefly by Murphy who put in some effective bursts from scrums in the Hawks 22, which spreadeagled the home defence.

However, these came to nothing as support runners knocked on passes and on other occasions the Hawks failed to keep the ball by trying abortive grubber kicks which turned over possession.

Then Murphy suffered a leg injury and the backs had to be reshuffled with Ben Palmer moving from number 12 to replace him and James Comben took over at fly-half.

These changes did not affect the flow of the Hawks’ back movements and eventually they were able to breach the Fylde defences with a strong finishing burst from wing Simon Perry whose try was converted by Comben to make the score 35-21 after 75 minutes.

The Hawks kept up the pressure to score a fourth bonus point-winning try but to no avail. With five games left it is possible to score a maximum 25 points but it would not achieve a remarkable escape from the drop even if the immediate opposition lost all their games.

Symbolically, as the final whistle was blown, the bell tower of the church adjacent to the ground began to toll sonorously a curfew bell. On this occasion it could be said “for whom the bell tolls” — it tolls for the Hawks as they return to Division 2.

Henley Hawks: 15 Alan Awcock, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Tom Gardner, 12 Basil Strang, 11 Simon Perry, 10 Ben Palmer, 9 Connor Murphy 1, Billy Moss, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Charlie Davey, 6 Idwal Davies, 7 Scott White, 8 Tom Hall, 16 Henry Sandys, 17 Peter Davies, 18 James Comben, 19 Jake Randall, 20 Liam O’Neill.

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