Hawks Defeat Blaydon as They Build to Avoid Relegation

Henley Hawks 23 pts Blaydon 13 pts

After their convincing victory against Wharfedale 52-22 last week the Hawks approached this game with some confidence but Blaydon have been a force in National 1 for some years and it seemed inevitable that they would provide tough opposition. So a closer game was expected and so it turned out to be.

From the start the big Blaydon pack stamped their authority on the sets scrums. They had more than a nudge on the Hawks from the start on their put in and they succeeded in taking two heels against the head. It was therefore not a surprise when from a catch and drive influential No. 8 Jason Smith was driven over for a try which Andrew Davies, stand in fly-half, for Andy Baggett, failed to convert. This early set back could well have been worse but for some impressive tidying up in the back row of the scrum by No. 8 Matt Payne.

The Hawks however collected good ball from their line outs and this gave them the opportunity to create their favoured running rugby. Scrum-half Luke was able to make useful breaks particularly down the blind side and he was also able to release fly-half James Comben who found four or five gaps in a cumbersome defence fairly close to the scrum. Playing head up he eluded Blaydon’s front five. However it was a blind side break by Carter which set up the first try of the game for the Hawks. He linked with right wing Xavier who scorched in from 30 metres for Comben to convert and put the Hawks in the lead 7-5.

Now the Hawks were able to carve holes in the visitors defence. Next it was Comben again that created space for full back Ed Yarnton, always quick to exploit opportunities to score, to touch down against his former club. Comben’s conversion attempt drifted wide so did the attempt to improve on his owns try five minutes. He mad the line when supporting a move down the left a typical convincing side step took him through the cover. The Hawks 17-5 lead was however improved four minutes later when Blaydon’s defence in disarray was caught off-side in front of the posts for Comben to kick a straight forward penalty.

A 20-5 lead with already three tries in the bag promised well for the Hawks in the second half with a try bonus point in view. Although they started the second forty minutes well and had opportunities on three occasions to   build on their lead careless play threw them away. This was particularly true when the Blaydon defence was full stretched but an ill advised to attempt at kick through meant that it came to naught and from there on the Hawks were reluctant to stretch what had been a vulnerable Blaydon defence in the first half.

Thus playing a more static game played into the visitors hands. This was true despite changes to the Hawks ‘ front row with the introduction of Dave Manning and Ian Williams that led to them securing stability in the set scrums.

Blaydon quickly took advantage of the change in tempo when their experienced lock Chris Wearmouth cashed in on a powerful drive over the Hawks’ line. The score was now 20-10 as the conversion attempt was well wide. Much of the remainder of the game was a struggle for the Hawks’ defence although they covered well and the tackling of Danny Wells was a feature. They thus prevented Blaydon scoring from third drive although Davies converted a penalty from in front of the posts.

The best attacking moment for the Hawks came when Xavier , put in possession on the half-way line made a side stepping swerving run which was stopped by the last line of defence  on Blaydon’s 22 metre line. However Comben, judged to be man of the match, gave Hawks the comfort of a ten point lead after 60 minutes. With a straight forward penalty

There was no further scoring as the Hawks’ sat on their lead to record an important victory although a dash down the left touch line by Tom Grimes looked as if the lead would be reduced to three points with a try under the posts had the assistant referee on the spot had not seen him put a foot in touch

A satisfactory result for the Hawks which moves them two places  up the league table but still in the red zone, a colour which featured in the vision of the Hawks’ coaching team at the poor tactical play of the Hawks’ in the second half.

Henley Hawks

15. Ed Yarnton, 14. Xavier Andre, 13 Tom Allen (Martin Nutt 40), 11. Christophe Bart, 10. James Comben, 9. Luke Carter, 1. Billy Moss (IanWilliams 59), 2. Liam Dwyer, 3. Alec Penny ( Dave Manning 53), 4 Dave Clements, 5. Josh McNally, 6. Ryan Newman, 7. Michael Denbee ( Robbie Stapley 59), 8.Matt Payne (Capt.)