LONDON IRISH WILD GEESE 15-38 HENLEY HAWKS
By Nick Pitson
Henley Hawks got back to winning ways on Saturday with a bonus point victory over a plucky London Irish side in Sunbury, outscoring their hosts by six tries to two. In blustery conditions, it was a scrappy game, particularly in the first half with neither side managing to get any momentum into their play.
It was certainly not the Hawks best performance of the season, with plenty of unforced errors, especially at the lineout where the Hawks lost a number of their own throw ins. That said, the Hawks were by far the better side and scored four tries in a much improved second half effort. Again, it was the Hawks forwards who set up the victory with a dominant display and the backs also looked dangerous when they got some sort of consistency going, particularly George Wood who impressed on the wing.
The opening exchanges were aggressive with both defences on top as both sides tested each other out. The Hawks found building any continuity difficult which wasn’t helped by a number of line outs lost on their own throw.
The scrum however again was excellent and the Hawks won a penalty which they elected to kick for the corner. Two lines out were lost before a third was sealed and the ever effective driving maul led to the opening try for No8 Alex Bradley.
London Irish were competing well at this stage and reduced the arrears with a penalty from Ollie Turner after Hawks were caught offside.
With Henley struggling to find any continuity, this was the hosts’ best period of the game and they took the lead with a driving line out of their own with Scott Moore touching down. Turner converted.
The Henley scrum was in total control now and their dominance almost led to try. A scrum penalty was awarded and the Hawks again kicked to the corner. The driving maul crossed the line but was held up. From the scrum, Dan Barnes drove forward setting up a good position for the backs only to see the final pass go astray when it looked easier to score.
The forwards were driving well in the loose play a good move involving some deft handling between Jake Albon, Dave Manning and Sam Lunnon, set up position for Ross MacDougall to crash over for a try. Roddy Giles converted to give the Hawks a 12-10 lead at the break.
The Hawks needed something to spark them into some sort of form and they got it right at the beginning of the second half when the hosts spilled the restart deep in their own 22. From the scrum, there were good drives from Tom Emery and Jake Albon before Ross MacDougall crossed for his second try of the match near the posts. Giles converted.
The bonus point try came four minutes later when Ross MacDougall robbed the ball from an Irish attack and raced out of his own half. He was eventually caught but there was good support from the forwards and quick ball allowed Dan Barnes to run in and touchdown. Giles again converted.
That score put the game out of reach for the Irish but the home side, to their credit kept going and managed to get a bit of possession. The Hawks defence was tested but it stood firm as some of the exchanges became feisty.
Henley then scored their fifth try when good use of the blind side put George Wood clear on the wing. He made some 40m before brilliantly linking with Sam Randle, who crossed for the try.
The Irish replied immediately. A Hawks error in their own 22 led to a home scrum from which No8 Chris Browne picked up and crashed over.
The Hawks had the final say in the gathering gloom. Attacking on the Irish 22, Tom Hall ran an excellent angle to break through, avoid a couple of tackles before passing to Scott White who crossed for Henley’s sixth try. Giles converted to complete the victory.
Although the Hawks didn’t play at their best in this match, it was a workmanlike performance that got the job done. This away bonus point victory now puts them on the same points total as Canterbury in the table and sets them up well for the visit to Guernsey next week.
15 Sam Randall, 14 George Wood, 13 Dan Barnes, 12 Xavier Andre, 11 Jack Robinson, 10 Roddy Giles, 9 Ross MacDougall
1 Brad Cook, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Jake Albon, 5 Adam Neal, 6 Sam Lunnon, 7 Tom Hall, 8 Alex Bradley
Zac Clarke (for Manning) 66 mins
George Primett, (for Cook) 59 mins
Scott White (for Neal) 50 mins,
Finn Pietersen (for Robinson) 66 mins,
Leo Webb(for MacDougall) 66 mins
Tries: Bradley 13, MacDougall 34, 41, Barnes 45, Randle 54, White 65
Conversions: Giles 35, 42, 46, 66
Tries: Moore 24, Browne 58
Conversions: Turner 25
Penalties: Turner 17
Star Man: Ross MacDougall (Henley)
Referee: Louis Biggs
Halftime scoreline: London Irish Wild Geese 10 Henley Hawks 12
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa: