Henley Hawks 37 pts Cambridge 0 pts
Henley Hawks showed their best form of the season when they soundly defeated Cambridge at Dry Leas. In doing so they scored five tries which earned them a bonus point which put them five points ahead of Taunton Titans who went down to Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday 34-20.
The first 15 minutes of the game saw a desultory start with neither side able to command worthwhile possession and there was little indication of what was to come especially from the Hawks after the stalemate was broken when the visitors conceded a penalty in front of their posts which was meat and drink to the reliable place kicking ability of Hawks’ fly-half Will Robinson who put the Hawks’ into a 3-0 pts lead.
They were able to get possession from the set scrums where they had the edge on Cambridge as well as the line outs where the visitors were finding it difficult to throw the ball in straight at times. With this possession also occasionally from driving mauls they started to play free flowing rugby with both forwards and backs running on to the ball at speed which with continuity from back-up play had the Cambridge defence under acute pressure
The Hawks had the benefit of a good combination at half-back with Connor Murphy’s swift low raking service giving Robinson the ability to probe the Cambridge defence and he moved the ball wide and accurately to his backs to latch on to the ball in defence stretching fluid movements devoid of handling errors.
Yet the first try by the Hawks came from a largely individual effort from centre Ed Yarton. He was in a handling movement about 35 metres from the Cambridge line when he spotted a hole in a slightly misaligned defence which he exploited with a couple of side steps which put him ten metres out from the visitors line and whereupon he shook off the despairing lung of a defender to put the ball near enough the posts to make the conversion straight forward for Robinson, who seven minutes later notched a second penalty stretching the Hawks’ lead to 13-0.
Although the Hawks continued to dominant play the next try came from an unexpected source. The Hawks were controlling the heel from a set-scrum 15 metres from half-way when No. 8 Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas took the Cambridge back row by surprise, having slipped as he went to secure the ball. However when safely in possession he stormed away near the touchline, and having left the Cambridge guard snoring away proceeded to cross the home line and claim an outstanding try
At half-time the score in the Hawks’ favour was 20-0 and this came when a sudden heavy rain storm threatened to change the nature of the game the Hawks having enjoyed sunny dry conditions which suited their swift handling movements.
However the stormy conditions quickly passed when play resumed and Henley immediately drove towards the Cambridge line deep into their 22. Matt Payne thereupon used his experience to complete the resultant surge by touching down to consolidate the Hawks lead at 25-0 and make the ultimate result of the game now in the Hawks’ favour. The forwards now well on top, again put the Blood and Sand (as Cambridge are known as) under pressure and they could not prevent prop Dave Manning crashing over for the Hawks’ fourth which Robinson converted to make the score 32 -0.
The home side went further ahead when a skilful break by Robinson gave Simon Perry the chance to score his third try of the season which with the conversion made the score 37-0.
Cambridge enjoyed more possession in the last quarter of the game and although they hammered away at the Hawks line, probably for ten minutes, they could not find their way through. In fact the best chance of a try came when Robbie Stapley came storming through from the half-way line showing pace not usually associated with a back row. It seemed that he would end the game on a high. Unfortunately the Cambridge defence had other ideas helped by his decision not to pass to a couple of colleagues poised to assist from favourable positions.
This decisive victory was achieved with the replacements bench being filled, with one exception debutante wing Connor Corrigan, by players of experience and usually first choice. The selection was made to test the depth in the strength of the Hawks squad this year and to prove,
To some extent that no player in the squad can automatically command a place in the starting line-up.
15. Tom Allen, 14. Xavier Andre, 13. Simon Perry, 12. Ed Yarnton, 11. Lloyd Owen (Conner Corrigan 20), 10 Will Robinson, 9. Conner Murphy, 1. Tom West ( Dave Manning 40), 2 Stuart Philpott ( Nathan Taylor 64), 3. James Titchfield ( Tom West 62), 4. Dave Clements (capt.,Will Woodward 49) 5. Will Woodward ( Ryan Newman 40), 6. Matt Payne( Tom Hall 80), 7. Tom Hall (Robbie Stapley 49), 8 Oskar Hirskyj -Douglas