NOT for the first time this season Henley Hawks promised victory at Cinderford last Saturday but
NOT for the first time this season Henley Hawks promised victory at Cinderford last Saturday but failed to grasp their opportunities to seal a win.
The story of this game is of three periods when each side dominated scoring. The first 20 minutes saw the Hawks lead by 10 points scoring two unconverted tries. The middle 40 minutes belonged to Cinderford who scored 34 points which included four tries, importantly all converted and two penalties. The final 20 minutes belonged to the Hawks who scored 17 points with three tries and just one conversion
The Hawks pack was on top for the first 20 minutes and their driving play was the focus of their attack. The first score came after 16 minutes close to touch when Jake Randall burst through having been slipped the ball by Charlie Davey as the forward momentum took them close to the try line. The second came just four minutes later when number eight Julian Watkins picked up and dived over from the rear of a scrum.
Immediately after this quick thinking ex-Gloucester flanker Adam Balding spun the ball away from a clearance kick which had bounced into touch to set up a counterattack 10 metres inside the Hawks half. Unfortunately for the Hawks they were kept napping as Cinderford swept away across field and centre Sam Hanks strode away to score close to the posts.
Cindy, as they are nicknamed, were only three points in arrears as fly-half James Moffatt began an immaculate place kicking performance by kicking the resultant conversion, the first of 14 points from four conversions and two penalties in the course of the game.
At this stage the Hawks had the benefit of a brisk following wind. They attempted to keep play in the Cinderford half by long punts into their territory but the hosts were able to run the ball back with some pace and developed passing movements which were well supported by safe hands.
The Hawks countered this and with less than effective tackling and Cinderford were able to add two more converted tries by scrum-half Alex Frame and wing Harrison Yorke.
A 21-10 lead at half-time was built on at the start of the second half when the Hawks’ desultory approach to the game continued. Two penalties from the boot of Mossop were followed by a converted try by lock Edward King from a line out at which time the Hawks were reduced to 14 players for the second time in the game, with Tom Hall being given a yellow card, Tom West having also been given one after 30 minutes of the first half, which left the Hawks 34-10 in arrears.
This deficit was attempted to be remedied by the Hawks coaching staff by the introduction of fresh legs and lungs. Young scrum-half Freddie Taylor made his debut and showed an accurate swift service from the base of the scrum and the seasoned Tom Haynes came into the pack as did the England U20s hooker Curtiss Langdon.
Immediately there was more energy in the Hawks passing and handling and Cindy were pushed back and their defence began to look vulnerable. Within five minutes the home defence was punctured twice by the fast finishing Randall and O’Neill, whose pace led to tries from broken play. This was evident when Ben Palmer put in a breathtaking elusive run of 70 metres which he finished with a punt towards the Cinderford posts. O’Neill followed up and there was no opposition around to compete for the touchdown. The Hawks were now aware that victory or a draw were now a distinct possibility. To save time Palmer dropped kick a successful conversion — the first for the Hawks in the match.
Willis, again the influential Hawks flanker, looked to be on for a sixth try but was caught from behind 25 metres from Cinderford’s line. The Hawks continued to press on and were rebuffed on three occasions but they took the wrong option when they heeled the ball from in front of the posts when they moved it back to the right with a three man overlap free on the left. This was a breathless finish but the Hawks did come away with some satisfaction having secured two bonus points for the first time this season and apart from anything else had they converted more than one try the spoils would have been theirs outscoring Cinderford by five tries to four.
Henley Hawks: 15 James Comben, 14 Simon Perry, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Louis Flynn (James Davies, 24 mins, Palmer, 49 mins), 11 Jake Randall, 10 Ben Palmer (Freddie Taylor, 47 mins), 9 Tom Allen, 1 Tom West, 2 Tom Emery (Curtiss Langdon, 57 mins), 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Charlie Davey (Tom Haynes, 57 mins), 6 Tom Hall 7 Jack Willis, 8 Julian Watkins.