Henley Hawks 24-13 London Irish Wild Geese
By Nick Pitson
In front of a good crowd, Henley Hawks first pre-season game finished in a comfortable victory against the London Irish Wild Geese at Dry Leas on Saturday.
It was a good test for a youthful Hawks squad who were missing some of last season’s regulars who were unavailable for this game, but it also gave the coaching team an opportunity to cast their eyes over a number of promising youngsters who have been training with the squad.
London Irish Wild Geese, looking to bounce back straight away after being relegated at the end of last season, were a well organised side and the game was well contested, although the very windy conditions were not suited for a flowing game and both sides were not helped by some over eager officiating from the referee.
The game was played over four periods of twenty minutes and both sides took the opportunity to use a number of replacements and squad players.
It was the visitors who scored first with a penalty early on but gradually the Hawks then began to get the upper hand. From an attacking line out and forward drive, the outstanding player of the game, Alex Bradley crashed over for the Hawks first try which Ben Bolster converted.
Young scrum half Elliot McPhun looked sharp and he made a good break and was well supported by Jack Robinson as the Hawks put more pressure on the visitors defence. Good work from Xavier Andre then set up the Hawks second try from one of last season’s stand out forwards, Marcus Lowe, again converted by Bolster to give the Hawks a 14-3 lead.
Alex Bradley, Marcus Lowe and Scott White dominated the forward exchanges along with new signing Angus Hinton, while Ben Bolster looked assured at outside half.
Despite the visitors endeavour, the Hawks extended their lead when Bradley won another line out and the forward drive created enough space for Jack Robinson to cross in the corner to giving the Hawks a 19-3 lead at the half time break
The start of the second half saw the Hawks continue to try and play an expansive game and Archie van Dyke showed some good touches from full back. As more of the squad were introduced, the Hawks, not surprisingly became a little disjointed and the visitors began to get some parity in the exchanges. The Wild Geese came close with a good break out attack before finally crossing for their first try.
The three scrum halves used by the Hawks during the game, Elliot McPhun, Paolo Peschesolido and Ewan Fenley all played well and showed the Hawks could have some good strength in depth at half back. It was Peschesolido who orchestrated a Hawks attack which allowed van Dyke to cross on the corner for the Hawks fourth try.
Towards the end, the Irish then scored a carbon copy of their first try when their well drilled forwards drove over from close range.
This was a good run out for some of the Hawks squad and a good opportunity for the youngsters in the squad to show how they can cope with a match situation at this level. The squad will face a much tougher test on Saturday with the visit of National League 1 side, Rosslyn Park to Dry Leas.
Match photos are courtesy of Steve Karpa;