Henley Hawks V Clifton Match report
Conveyancing Data Services are proud team sponsors of the Henley Hawks. The following is a match report from Saturday 31st January’s game where they played against Clifton at Henley’s home ground at Dry Leas. Our very own James Comben played at Fly Half. Henley Hawks’ next game is on Saturday 7th February at 15.00 playing at against Old Elthamians ground in Chislehurst.
HAWKS SUBDUE A POWERFUL CLIFTON PACK TO INCREASE LEAGUE LEAD
by Nick Burden
Clfton usually produce large West Country packs and they did again for this game in conditions that were much in their favour on a rainy blustery day.
They had the advantage of a cold nagging wind from the kick-off. This may well have made it difficult for the Hawks to start the game well. However contrary to recent games when they have been behind on the scoreboard very early in the game it was they who scored after just three minutes.
They were put into an attacking position deep into Clifton territory by a sharp bursting run by right wing Xavier Andre and from a scrum within ten metres of the Clifton line scrum-half Connor Murphy's attempt to get through to the try line was held up. The Hawks' pack were now in a position to put in a driving maul. And hooker Stuart Philpott grounded the ball to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead with James Comben's successful conversion attempt.
Any chance that the Hawks would build on this early lead was quickly dismissed. This game was destined to be a ding dong affair for Clifton swung on to the attack and a carefully constructed move down the centre split the Hawks defence and wing Luke Blizzard took advantage to drive through a yawning gap to score close to the posts for full back Charles Foley to add the extra points to level the soar at 7-7.
The Hawks counter attacked and were able to find gaps in the visitors defence, that centres Fred Pierrepoint and Ed Yarnton, with a side stepping run, had a chance to put wing Lloyd Owen unmarked on overlaps only to spurn the opportunities to do so by looking to score themselves
The Hawks fell behind 10-7 fifteen minutes into the game when Foley kicked a penalty from 40 metres with the help of the following wind. The Hawks were kept well into the game however by their back row of Matt Payne, Gus Jones and Robbie Stapely by driving runs, carries and effective rucking.
More and more the pack were to send the big Clifton back with their controlled well directed driving mauls and an effective one closing in on the visitors line led to Dave Manning being forced over for an unconverted try which gave the Hawks a 12-10 lead.
This meant the lead had already changed hands three times. As half-time approached the Hawks did not want this to happen again. Unfortunately despite their best efforts they could not stop No. 8 Alistare Bone picking up and diving over. Clifton therefore secured an important half-time lead of 17-12 thanks to Foley's excellent conversion from the touch line.
The Hawks emerged from the break showing excellent determination to make the most of the following wind and to play the game in the Clifton half. The effort of the forwards in line out ruck and maul led by skipper Dave Clements Will Woodward and Robbie Stapley gave the backs the ball they could use to press for further scoring opportunities. This had its reward eight minutes into the half when the ball was swept across the backs to right wing Andre who from 20 metres out broke tackles to touch down literally at the corner flag. The scores were now tied a 17-17.
At this stage Clifton were still able to counter attack but the Hawks now used new props Hugo Milford Scott and Jimmy Litchfield to build on the good work of Manning and Tom West (who had been impressive with his carries). The next scoring opportunity came in the shape of a penalty about ten metres from the half-way line. This was entrusted to Murphy whose capacity for converting long distance goals led to him being nominated for the kick which he converted with a clearance over the cross bar by a few safe millimetres!
The Hawks now had their noses in front by three points 20-17 again with 2O minutes playing time left. However they were now pinned back in their own territory much of the time deep in their twenty two, they found it difficult to break the hold that the visitors had on possession. They tackled their big opponents low and hard reducing the advantage they had in body weight. The visitors were held up over their line more than once. Clearance kicks were returned with interest but on one occasion Lloyd Owen danced his way by means of his agile foot work from behind his own line to the 22.
The Hawks superior fitness eventually began to tell and with ten minutes of playing time left they at last were able to put Clifton back into their own twenty two and again a controlled driving maul led the way to a score. It was replacement flanker Tom Hall who used his strength to burrow over to score under the post for Comben to convert to ease the Hawks lead to 27-17.
This was soon followed by a well judge kick to the corner by Comben. From a resultant line out (a phase which they now controlled well) from a penalty, the Hawks put on a drive for the line for Payne to be able to force his way through for a try to make the score 32-17.
A well-deserved victory for the Hawks over a side that other teams in the league will find difficult to beat especially on their own turf. As a result the Hawks have now stretched their lead over their nearest rivals Dorking to nine points as they failed to secure a bonus point in beating Cambridge 16-15.
15. Jake Randall, 14. Xavier Andre, 13. Fred Pierrepoint, 12. Ed Yarnton, 11. Lloyd Owen, 10. James Comben, 9. Connor Murphy (Mark Bruce 80), 1. Tom West (Jimmy Lichfield 46), 2. Stuart Philpott, 3. Dave Manning (Hugo Milford Scott 46), 4. Dave Clements, 5. Will Woodward (Matt Payne 75), 6. Matt Payne (Tom Hall 60), 7. Gus Jones (Jack Willis 80), 8. Robbie Stapley