HENLEY HAWKS 19 OLD ALBANIAN 25
It was a disappointing start to the season for the Henley Hawks as they slipped to a rare home defeat against Old Albanian at Dry Leas on Saturday. In a scrappy game, the Old Boys deservedly took the spoils against a uncharacteristic error strewn performance from the Henley side.
Although only the first game, for Henley, this was a wake up call for the long season ahead. It is a very tough league and there is plenty to work on for the Hawks but more than enough time to get back into winning form the team is used to. Henley could look at the visiting Old Boys side who while not completely dominant, were well organised, composed and did the basic skills of the game well.
The Hawks on the other hand, couldn’t get any momentum and made far too many mistakes. As Head Coach Luke Allen commented afterwards, the Hawks, attempting to replicate form of previous seasons, tried to force things too much and lacked the necessary composure at crucial moments. They didn’t help themselves by gifting the Old Boys three tries, two of them interceptions but there can be no real complaints about the final result.
The Hawks failed to gather the first kick off which led to the Old Boys opening the scoring with a penalty from Dan Watt.
Henley responded quickly but lost the ball in attack which was a characteristic of their play during the whole game. To compound matters, they then gifted the Old Boys a try when Alessandro Ricci completed a simple interception as the Hawks tried to play out of their own 22. Watt converted the try to give the visitors a 10-0 lead.
Henley’s main attacking weapon was the driving maul from a line out, and a couple of early attempts came close as the Old Boys struggled to contain the driving Hawks forwards. They finally got some reward when Tom Emery crossed for the first Hawks try. Dave Hyde, Alex Bradley and Sam Lunnon were in good form in the loose play and it look as though Henley had begun to find a bit of form.
However, the Old Boys scrum was dominant and former Hawk, scrum half Elliot McPhun was a constant threat.
Dan Watt kicked another penalty for the visitors before the Hawks were awarded the first of two penalty tries. From a close line out, the Old Boys were guilty of illegally dropping another driving maul and the referee had no option bringing the Hawks to within one point of the visitors.
With with the the Old Boys temporarily reduced to thirteen men, it looked as though the Hawks were beginning to find their stride. Then another error in midfield and another interception, this time just inside their own half, saw centre Tom Mills race through to score. Watt converted.
Almost immediately, the Hawks failed to gather a high kick on half way and some excellent handling between the Albanian backs allowed Dan Watt to cross in the corner. Despite the missed conversion, the visitors held a 25-12 lead at the break.
The Hawks came out for the second half with more purpose and George Wood showed his skills but he was the only real attacking threat. However, with the Hawks scrum retreating, the harder they tried, the more errors seemed to creep into their game and they couldn’t find any momentum or a foothold to threaten the Old Boys defence. The visitors played intelligently, pinning the Hawks down in their own half for long periods of the second half.
The Hawks to their credit continued to battle hard, never gave up and eventually broke out of their own half, looking for a try that would give them a losing bonus point. The Hawks had the better if the last ten minutes and despite squandering a couple of chances, they were finally awarded their second penalty try in the last minute, when another driving maul was halted illegally.
Henley Head Coach Luke Allen was philosophical afterwards. “We won’t be too down about this. We made too many errors and therefore lost opportunities to put points on the board. We have to be cool under pressure but we did come back to get a bonus point at the end. It was a classic case of ‘game rust’ and it’s a long season.”
A disappointing start for the Hawks but they will look to get back to winning ways quickly with another home game next week against Hinckley.
By Nick Pitson
15 Love, 14 Norvill, 13 Wood, 12, Panday, 11 Macrae, 10 Cookland, 9 Webb,8 Bradley, 7 Bordill, 6 Lowe, 5 Hyde, 4 Lunnon (Capt), 3 Mason, 2 Emery, 1 Cook
Reps: 16 Probyn (for Cook 80) 17 Frostick (for Mason 40), 18 Hall (for Bordill 40), 19 White (for Lowe 70), 20 Gilbey (for Macrae 70)