After two challenging away games the Hawks have their first home against Blackheath the oldest club in England. Known as ‘The Club’ they were founded in 1858 and since then have always been in the higher echelons of English rugby.
The Hawks have played them on several occasions since they themselves reached the higher realms and last played them in 2013/14 before dipping down to Division 2 (South) for one season having earned promotion last year.
In recent years, games between the sides have been closely contested. In the corresponding fixture at Dry Leas in November 2013 the Hawks ran out comfortable winners 27-11. When the return game was played at The Rectory in March the Hawks lost their way, failed to take their chances, and lost 22-18. This was an important result for them for subsequently they were not able to win enough games to avoid relegation.
The Hawks bounced back last Saturday after their loss at Rosslyn Park with a narrow two point victory, as it turned out, away at Darlington Mowden Park stadium. The Hawks put on a fabulous display of forward power which staggered the Park players for much of the game.
It is no surprise that the same pack is retained by the Hawks for this game. Outside the scrum there is a welcome return of Connor Murphy having recovered from the injury at Rosslyn Park. There is now cover for the scrum-half position with the signing of James Helliwell who was playing for the well known Randwick, New South Wales outfit a couple of seasons ago. Tom Allen who did a good job as an emergency replacement at Darlington Mowden Park last week is switched to his preferred position at centre. Fred Pierrepoint therefore moves to the wing.
There are also changes on the bench where the dual registered (with London Irish) Curtis Langdon will cover the important position of hooker. There is also the introduction of Jamie Davies the former Plymouth Albion wing/fullback who scored a couple of tries for the Bulls in their excellent victory over Jersey Athletic last Saturday on his debut for Henley.
Competition in Division 1 is very keen and like the Hawks many teams have been building their playing strength to remain in the top semi-professional league in the country. Both of our opponents to date, Rosslyn Park and DMP have like the Hawks recruited a dozen or more new players this season. Blackheath will arrive on Saturday with only three players that featured in the last game they played each other in March 2014. However their scrum-half Jack Walsh was absent that day as he was then in the England Sevens squad. Regular supporters will notice that prop George Edgson who featured in Hawks sides on occasions last season is on the bench. Colin Ridgeway, formerly a hooker, has taken over from Simon Legg as Director of Rugby.
Henley Hawks v Blackheath
1. Tom West, 2. Tom Emery, 3. Dave Manning, 4. Dave Clements (capt), 5. Jake Albon, 6. Sam Richardson, 7. Tom Hall, 8. Robbie Stapley 9. Connor Murphy, 10 James Comben 11. Simon Perry, 12. Jack Bradford, 13. Tom Allen, 14. Fred Pierrepoint 15. Liam 0’Neill
Subs – 16. Henry Sandys, 17. Curtis Langdon, 18. Charlie Davey . 19. James Helliwell, 20 . Jamie Davies
The Bulls also play at Dry Leas against Blackheathens ‘The Club’s 2nd XV ( kick-off 2.45 pm)
The strong XV selected marks the return on the wing of Hawks’ first team choice of last season Lloyd Owen who has been unavailable before this Saturday. Also two former Hawks’ forwards for many years prop Jim Hadfield and Matt Payne who has been a regular since 2004/5 This former captain has been a talisman of the Hawks over the years and was prominent in the drive for promotion last season