HENLEY HAWKS 33-12 OLD ALBANIAN
Tries: Webb 8, Andre 42, Griffiths 45, Randle 60, Hyde 66
Conversions: Giles 8, 42, 60, 66
Tries: Moore 24, Browne 58
Conversions: Turner 25
Penalties: Turner 17
Star Man: George Griffiths (Henley)
Referee: Phillip Davies
Halftime scoreline: Henley Hawks 7-12 Old Albanian
By Nick Pitson
Henley Hawks produced an excellent second half performance against Old Albanian RFC at Dry Leas on Saturday and deservedly gained another bonus point win.
However, this was a game for the die hard rugby fan as the driving rain and gales made any sort of creative play difficult to put together.
That said, both teams should be congratulated for producing a productive, competitive game to satisfy the supporters who did venture out on to the sidelines.
The atrocious conditions meant that the sodden Dry Leas pitch began to cut up quite badly by the end and it was difficult to identify which players were playing for which side.
The early exchanges were littered with mistakes as the ball was difficult to control but the Hawks had the first chance when a chip through and some good handling from Sam Randle put George Wood clear but his inside pass went astray.
Nevertheless, it was the Hawks who struck first after a good move involving the impressive Dave Hyde, Randle again and skipper Sam Lunnon. A good driving maul got the Hawks within striking distance and it was scrum half Leo Webb who broke though to touchdown for a try that Roddy Giles converted.
This seem to galvanise the visitors who then dominated the rest of the half. They used their forwards effectively, managing the conditions well and pinning the Hawks in their own 22 for long periods.
The Hawks defence seemed to be holding, but Old Albanians levelled the scores on 22 minutes when they disrupted a Henley line out and their prop Zaki Chamnaoiu crashed over after a number of pick and drives from the visitors forwards. Daniel Watt converted.
The Old Boys showed great discipline in keeping the ball and scrum half Thompson kicking for position when the occasion needed it. The ominous signs for the Hawks was their pack retreating at every scrum and it looked as if the visitors would start to run away with the game.
Albanians took the lead just before the break when the Hawks lost another line out. The visitors forwards drove for the line only to be held up. After a number of scrums, the pressure told on the Hawks and Thompson pounced to touchdown.
The Hawks had dug deep at this point with some determined defence and did well to go into the break once 12-7 behind.
Playing with the wind and rain at their backs now, Henley came out for the second half in a totally different mindset and straightaway took the game to Old Albanians, knocking them off their stride completely.
The Hawks quickly went in front thanks to Xav Andre who finished off a good team move that made light of the conditions. Giles converted, and shortly afterwards, George Griffiths picked up a loose ball in the middle of the field and outpaced the Old Boys defence for an excellent individual try to out the Hawks 19-12 ahead.
An unfortunate injury to Albanians scrum half Morgan Thompson saw the referee send both teams into the changing rooms as the medical staff treated the injured player. The break lasted some fifteen minutes but it didn’t halt the momentum that the Hawks had built up.
The introduction of Brad Cook at prop coincided with a complete turnaround in the scrums with the Hawks now in total control and Alex Bradley making excellent yards with a number of driving runs.
A great cross kick from Dan Barnes out the visiting full back under great pressure from the Hawks forwards. He dropped the ball and Sam Randle pounced to score the Hawks bonus point try. Giles again converting.
The Hawks fifth try was scored by star forward Dave Hyde who went over in the corner after a good break from hooker Tom Emery. Roddy Giles converted from the touchline to complete proceedings.
This was an excellent result for the Hawks against tough opponents in testing conditions. Henley’s Director of Rugby Nigel Dudding was pleased with what he saw. “The response shown by the players in the second half was very pleasing. To score four tries in the second half and restrict them from scoring showed how much we wanted to win the game”.
It is 11 wins out of the last 12 matches for the Hawks, setting them up well for the visit to Barnes next week.
15 Sam Randle, 14 George Wood, 13 Dan Barnes, 12 Xavier Andre, 11 George Griffiths, 10 Roddy Giles, 9 Leo Webb
1 Zak Clarke, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Ross Parkin, 5 Dave Hyde, 6 Sam Lunnon, 7 Scott White , 8 Alex Bradley
Brad Cook (for Clarke ) 49 mins
Elliot Deacon, (for Manning) 74 mins
Liam Goodison (for Parkin) 28 mins,
Finn Pietersen (for Webb) 70 mins,
Ryan O’Neill (for Giles) 72 mins
Match Photos courtesy of Steve Karpa;