HENLEY HAWKS 52-0 LONDON IRISH WILD GEESE
By Nick Pitson
After the disappointment of the narrow, last minute defeat in the crucial promotion game at Canterbury last week, Henley Hawks returned to Dry Leas on Saturday and recorded a well deserved and morale boosting victory over bottom side, London Irish Wild Geese.
The scoreline was comfortable enough with the Hawks scoring eight tries without reply against a London Irish side that offered very little threat and showed why they are bottom of the league table at present.
It was a scrappy opening from both teams and it looked as though the Hawks were having some after effects from the Canterbury game and they somewhat laboured to a 14-0 lead at the break.
The determination and commitment from the Hawks however, was exemplary throughout the match and the second half was one way traffic as they gradually found some fluency and in the end showed a ruthless streak in scoring four tries in the last ten minutes.
It took the Hawks ten minutes to break the Irish defence. Up until then, the visitors were combative and made life awkward for the Hawks. Eventually, George Wood made a good break which allowed skipper Sam Lunnon to score the Hawks first try. Dan Barnes kicked the first of his six conversions.
The Wild Geese struggled to get any foothold in the game but they contested well and the Hawks were probably guilty of trying too hard which led to some opportunities missed.
However, the forwards played with their usual tenacity and some good driving play from Dave Hyde and Tom Emery kept the visitors on the back foot.
Good handling from Ian Stock and Marcus Lowe gave Jack Robinson a chance but he just ran out of room and put a foot in touch. Then shortly afterwards, some good interplay between forwards, Ian Stock, Tom Emery and George Primett allowed Dan Barnes to break clear before the final pass was dropped.
Eventually, Liam O’Neill broke clear and Ian Stock capped a good first half performance to touchdown. Barnes again converted to give the Hawks a 14-0 lead at half time.
The second half was all Hawks and they scored the third try before many of the spectators had returned from the break in the clubhouse. Dan Barnes made a searing break and evaded a number of tackles to score near the posts. Barnes again converted.
The visitors were reduced to thirteen men with a second yellow card and the game went to uncontested scrums. Dave Hyde made a good break and the Hawks were awarded a scrum ten metres from the Irish line. A quick heel saw the ball moved quickly by the backs as far as Xav Andre who easily crossed for the bonus point try and put the Hawks further ahead. Barnes again converted.
The visitors began to tire and the Hawks showed their ruthless streak in the final five minutes.
Jake Albon superbly secured a line out and the ball was taken on by Tom Hall before Scott White crashed over.
Liam O’Neill then broke clear from a set scrum and beat some weak Irish defence to score before his brother, Ryan O’Neill finished off a great handling move involving Dan Barnes and Tom Emery.
Then just before the end, Liam O’Neill got his second try in the closing minutes after good work from Tom Emery and Tom Hall.
A 52-0 scoreline suggests a comprehensive victory for the Hawks, and it was an excellent response following the Canterbury loss.
The Hawks still lie in fourth place in the league but are still only six points away from the play off spot and this victory will just serve as a reminder to second placed Canterbury and third placed Tonbridge that the Hawks have not gone away just yet.
Liam O’Neill, Jack Robinson, Ryan O’Neill, Xavier Andre, George Wood, Dan Barnes, Leo Webb, Ian Stock, Tom Emery, George Primett, Dave Hyde, Jake Albon, Marcus Lowe, Sam Lunnon (Capt), Alex Bradley
Reps. Brad Cook (for Primett 41min), Dave Manning (for Stock 38min), Scott White (for Lowe 62min), Tom Hall (for Bradley 54min), George Griffiths (for Wood 40min)
Match photos courtesy of Steve Karpa: