Coventry 29 Henley Hawks 15
This game was played in the wintriest conditions experienced so far this season. Steady rain throughout was accompanied by an icy blast from the North West these conditions were not conducive to handling rugby. Unfortunately for the Hawks Coventry seemed to cope with elements better than the visitors in the first half.
At half-time it appeared likely that the Hawks were going to go down at another heavy defeat. To the contrary it was the Hawks that had the better of the second half and indeed they scored twelve points to Coventry’s three despite playing into the arctic wind.
In truth the home side settled into the conditions quicker than the Hawks who had little possession and that which they had was often lost in part to the difficulties in handling in the conditions also by careless handling which included throwing the ball away indiscriminately when pressed. It was only seven minutes into the game before they surrendered the lead. This came from a break from a ruck 15 metres from the Hawks line by the Coventry back row who combined to put open side George Oliver over brushing aside a feeble defence. This try was not converted with the attempted kick blown away by the gusty wind.
Play continued in the Hawks’ half and eventually this pressure had its reward when Coventry’s thrustful burst through after a scrum with the help of a powerful hand-off which was too much for the Hawks’ midfield to deal with. This time fly-half Jones secured a conversion close to the post to put the hosts 12-0 in the lead. From the restart the Hawks made their first serious entry into home territory. Earning a rare penalty scrum-half James Helliwell tapped it and was then stopped with in ten metres to give James Comben to put the Hawks on the scoreboard through a straight forward penalty.
However Coventry immediately to the attack and earning a penalty from a scrimmaging offence by Hawks prop Tom West, after referee Bain was of the view that the Hawks were prepared to halt a drive by illegal means dispatched him from the game with a yellow card and at the same time awarded a penalty try which with Jones’ conversion made the score 19-3.
Worse was to follow for the Hawks for on the restart Coventry ran the ball back at them and outing Knox in possession 30 metres from their own line gave the strong running centre to run though five poor attempts to tackle to run in unopposed from the half way line, which with another conversion to make the score 26-3 at halftime.
Although the Hawks tackling had not been impressive in the first forty minutes the Hawks had played 20 minutes of these with fourteen men as in addition to West the influential Matt Payne had also been sent to the sin bin after 18 minutes for obstruction.
The visitors were at full strength two minutes into the second half and it was then the pendulum of the game swung in their favour with the referee being advises by his assistants to send Allen Thimas and prop Chard Thorne to the sin bin within a minute of each other.
The Hawks immediately took advantage of their departures to execute a driving maul well over the Coventry line which enabled replacement Jake Albon to touch down his third try of the season. Indeed with the back row, Tom Hall, Matt Payne and the ubiquitous Rob Bell now taking the game to Coventry at every opportunity the Hawks now 26-10 in arrears after a successful conversion they were now looking to reduce the home side’s lead even further. This they did after 64 minutes when Bell drove over Coventry’s line. At 26 -15, Comben’s conversion attempt falling short against the wind thoughts of a grandstand finish must have been in the minds of the Hawks’ supporters. Sadly for them the momentum was lost when they lost the scrum in an attacking position and the game came to a close deep in the Hawks’ 22 with hooker Tom Emery being awarded the referee’s fifth yellow card of the game for alleged stamping.
The Hawks encouraging second half performance was due to their forwards. Sadly this was not enhanced by their backs who again did not show a cutting edge in attack or resolute tackling in defence.
15. James Davies (Tom Allen 55), 14.Andre Xavier, 13. Fred Pierrepoint, 12. Jack Bradford, 11.Simon Perry, 10. James Comben, 9. James Helliwell 1. Tom West ( Dave Manning 55, Henry Sandys,69), 2. Tom Emery, 3. Billy Moss (Tom West 79),4. Dave Clements ( Charlie Davey 74), 5. Charlie Davey ( Jake Albon 40), 6. Tom Hall , 7. Rob Bell, 8. Matt Payne (Will Woodward 69).