HENLEY HAWKS 31-22 BIRMINGHAM & SOLIHULL
By Nick Pitson
Henley Hawks had to work hard to get the better of a tenacious Birmingham & Solihull side but eventually came out winners at Dry Leas on Saturday, outscoring the visitors by five tries to three. For the second week running, the Hawks struggled to find momentum and continuity in their play and they were guilty of probably trying too hard, trying to force things too quickly instead of showing more patience, especially when they had the ball.
That said, the Hawks did enough, they won and collected a bonus point to stay third in the league and keep the pressure on second placed Canterbury who they play next week (March 23rd)..
The opening exchanges were even but Hawks gradually began to exert some control with Tom Emery and Dave Manning outstanding in the loose. A drive from Emery took play into the Bees 22 and Sam Lunnon went close before an interception from the visitors full back Cory Venus allowed Birmingham to break clear.
After some scrappy play from a both sides, Henley eventually took the lead when Dan Barnes claimed an interception and crossed for a try which Ben Bolster converted.
The Bees were sprightly and well organised with No 8, Umraan Jadwat in particular causing the Hawks problems, and the visitors came straight back with a Jack Jolly penalty from which Henley’s George Griffiths was awarded a yellow card.
With a man advantage, the Bees began to enjoy a bit more possession and took the lead with a good try from Bees outside half, Harry O’Brien who broke some weak Hawks tackles to score. Jolly converted.
The Hawks kept pressing with Tom Emery and Dave Hyde everywhere in the loose play and Dave Manning showing some great running and handling skills.
Just before the break, Emery and Manning again set up a good position for the Hawks and from a penalty elected to kick to the corner. From the line out, Tom Hall finished off Henley’s very effective driving maul to give the Hawks a 12-10 lead at half time.
The Hawks came out for the second period with real intent and before many of the supporters had returned from the clubhouse, immediately stretched their lead with a try for skipper, Sam Lunnon.
Just as it looked as though the Hawks would pull away and seal the game, the Bees came back. Their scrum was beginning to dominate and after taking a strike against the head, they levelled the score when centre, Nathan Tilsley forced his way over for a try which Jolly converted to bring the scores to 17-17.
Apart from good breaks from Dave Hyde and Xav Andre, Henley were making life difficult for themselves, making some simple errors and Birmingham enjoyed a lot of possession and territory. Jolly missed a penalty chance to regain the lead for the visitors but after some intense Birmingham pressure, it was Tom Emery again who led the break out for the Hawks.
Henley eventually got themselves back into Bees territory and turned down a couple of penalty kicks at goal in favour of an attacking line out. With Birmingham defending strongly, a well controlled maul by Dave Manning allowed the Hawks some space and a cross kick from Dan Barnes was collected by George Griffiths who beat the Bees defence to score. Ben Bolster converted from the touchline.
Birmingham weren’t finished, and replied immediately with a short side move involving Mathew Spink, and winger Oscar Heath beat some weak Hawks tackling to run round under the posts to score. Surprisingly, Jolly missed a straight foreword conversion that would have levelled the scores.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, the Hawks eventually found some rhythm and sealed the game with a well worked try from Liam O’Neill after some excellent handling between Ben Bolster and George Griffiths. Bolster converted to give victory to the Hawks and a moral boosting seven game winning run to take into the crunch game against Canterbury.
Liam O’Neill, George Griffiths, Dan Barnes, Xavier Andre, George Wood, Ben Bolster, Leo Webb, Brad Cook, Tom Emery, Dave Manning, Dave Hyde, Sam Lunnon (c), Tom Hall, Marcus Lowe, Alex Bradley
Reps. Zac Clarke (for Cook) 56 mins, Elliot Deacon, Scott White (for Lowe) 67mins, Adam Neal, Ross MacDougall (for Webb) 67minsHENLEY
Tries: Barnes 19, Hall 37, Lunnon 41, Griffiths 68, O’Neill 75
Conversions: Bolster 19, 68, 75
Tries: O’Brien 32, Tilsley 49, Heath 73
Conversions: Jolly 32, 49
Penalties: Jolly 27,
Star Man: Dave Manning (Henley)
Referee: James Milliner-Woodcock
Halftime scoreline: Henley 12-10 Birmingham and Solihull
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa;