Hawks heroic defensive effort sees them over the line

Guernsey Raiders 10-17  Henley Hawks

Weather conditions in the Channel Islands this weekend were horrendous. Even the Sunday morning mail flight couldn’t operate because of severe crosswinds reaching 60mph at times. After a rather bumpy flight on Saturday morning, it was clear that this was not going to be a free flowing game, but one dominated by the conditions and who could get the upper hand in the forward battle.

The lineout was always going to be a lottery, but after a shaky start, the Hawks adapted reasonably well. Unfortunately, the scrum was a different matter as the big Guernsey front row gave Henley some trouble resulting in numerous penalties.

Fortunately, the Henley defence was again outstanding and forced numerous handling errors from the hosts. However, Henley were unable to make the most of these turnovers and despite continuous pressure, were unable to breach the Islanders line. The visitors only had a Roddy Giles penalty to show for their efforts at half time, this despite two of the visitors pack being sent to the sin bin for continuous breaches of the offside line.

Indeed, with Henley playing with the conditions in the first half, Guernsey clearly thought they had won the game with cheers of delight greeting the half time whistle. This only served to fuel the half time team talk.

Henley came out of the blocks in the second half with renewed enthusiasm and proceeded to dismantle the hosts back line and drove into the heart of the hosts defense. This set up a number of attacking opportunities which the forwards duly obliged bringing a typical score for the hardworking, Alex Bradley who crashed over close to the posts after 50 minutes and Roddy Giles added the extras kicking into the teeth of the gale.

This gave the Hawks a bit of a breathing space and they now started to play some good rugby given the conditions. George Wood and Dan Barnes started to cut some good lines and create openings for the excellent Tom Hall to support and create problems for a tiring defence.

Despite the odd threat the hosts were now looking jaded and frustrated that, with the conditions in their favour, they couldn’t make any inroads. Indeed, the penalty count started to rise and Henley capitalised on this. They won a lineout close to the try line and worked a driving maul infield. Guernsey tried to halt this illegally and the patience of the Henley eight drove Scott White over and with Roddy Giles adding the extras Henley were now safe with a 17-0 lead.

Had some of the passes had stuck after this, the scoreline might have been greater. In the end, a couple of errors allowed the home side to gain a foothold in the Henley 22, which saw the Raiders going over for two late scores. The second try in injury time, deservedly giving the home side a losing bonus point as their battling tight head prop was driven over in the last play of the game.

In the end, Henley will have been relieved to come away with a hard fought win, which was built with belief, patience and some excellent defence. There are some areas to work on, but the squad is still evolving and promises much.

This Saturday sees a crucial game at the top of National 2 South, with the visit of Old Albanian to Dry Leas. Kick-off is 3pm.

Team:  Randle, Griffiths, Barnes, Andre, Wood, Giles, McDougall, Cook, Emery, Manning, Goodison, Albon, Lunnon (capt), Hall, Bradley  Subs all used:  Pieterson, Webb, Clarke, Primett, White, O’Neill

Match Photos courtesy of Martin Gray;