HENLEY HAWKS 30 CLIFTON 20
Tries: Cook 3, 66, Morris 56, Portland 80
Conversions: Jackson 3, 80
Penalties: Jackson 22, 32
Tries: Levesley 1, Hubert 25,
Conversions: Wells 1, 25
Penalties: Wells 12, 29
Star Man: Brad Cook (Henley)
Referee: Andrew MacNeaney
Halftime scoreline: Henley 13 Clifton 20
By Nick Pitson
Henley Hawks got back to winning ways on Saturday by claiming a hard fought bonus point win against a spirited Clifton side at Dry Leas.
In a game played between two evenly matched teams, the Hawks showed good intent throughout and generally were the more adventurous and threatening side and were certainly the fitter team. However, they didn’t have it all their own way, especially in the first half and Clifton can feel a little unfortunate that they didn’t return home to Bristol with at least a point.
The game started in dramatic fashion with two tries in the opening two minutes. First, a lack of concentration from the Hawks allowed Clifton to take a quick line out and Chris Levesley outpaced the Hawks defence to score in the corner. Danny Wells added the conversion.
Immediately from the kick off, the Hawks responded as Clifton failed to gather the restart and Brad Cook pounced on the loose ball and ran 25m to score. George Jackson levelled the scores at 7-7 with only three minutes on the clock.
The Hawks forwards as stuck to their task well with Brad Cook, Rob Bell and Dave Clements making good inroads into Clifton territory. However, Clifton’s defence was well organised and for a while both sides cancelled each other out.
This was the time for ex Henley favourite Danny Wells to start dominating proceedings for the visitors and he was at the heart of everything they did.
He traded penalties with George Jackson and made a couple of clean breaks deep into the Hawks half. From a dominant Clifton scrum, he made another easy break and set up Charles Hubert to score Clifton’s second try which Wells also converted.
A further penalty gave Clifton a ten point lead before Henley, led by Rob Bell exerted more pressure on the Clifton defence resulting in a yellow card for Clifton’s No. 8 Andy Chesters just before the break. Jackson kicked the penalty for the Hawks leaving the visitors 20-13 to the good at the break.
Henley started the second half in a positive fashion, trying to take advantage of having an extra man. A good passing move involving the backs and prop Brad Cook put Liam O’Neill clear who made 40m before the Hawks were penalised for holding on.
A solid looking driving maul by the Hawks pack was then in full flow until the ball was stolen by Clifton’s scrum half who was able to clear.
The introduction of Matt Tibbatts and Tom Emery from the bench was the turning point in the Hawks fortunes. Their impact was just what the home side needed and Henley became far more dynamic and threatening with Tibbatts in particular outstanding in the loose, supported well by Dave Clements.
Dave Hyde then led a forward drive and a well executed loop move involving George Jackson allowed Xavier Andre to make good ground into Clifton territory. The Hawks won a penalty and from the resulting line out, Joe Morris finished off a driving maul and was awarded the try.
Henley continued to threaten and Matt Tibbatts started a drive that gave Sam Portland a chance in the corner but he was tackled into touch in the act of scoring.
At this point, with Clifton appearing to be tiring, Henley eventually took the lead with a second try from Brad Cook wide out. Although the conversion was missed, the Hawks now led for the first time in the match, 23-20.
To their credit, Clifton responded and enjoyed a period of good possession as they went looking for a winning score. Despite a constant barrage of forward drives from the visitors, the Hawks defence held firm and eventually a great tackle from Tibbatts relieved the pressure and the Hawks broke clear.
Henley scored their bonus point try in the dying minutes. Pressure from a driving line out eventually told when the ball ball was thrown out to the backs. A loose pass was kicked through and Jack Robinson won the race to squeeze in for a try in the corner. Jackson converted off the post from the touch line to give the Hawks a ten point victory.
15 Jack Robinson, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Simon Perry,
11 Sam Portland, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson
1 Brad Cook, 2 Juan Wunder, 3 Joe Morris, 4 Dave Clements,
5 Jake Albon, 6 Dave Hyde, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Marcus Lowe
21 George Primett
18 Tom Emery. (for Wunder) 58 mins
17 Tommy Haynes (for Bell) 40 mins
22 Matt Tibbatts (for Lowe). 58 mins
20 Iwan MacRae. Not Used