Following a break weekend last week, it’s back to league action for the Henley Hawks on Saturday when they travel north to take on Birmingham and Solihull RFC in their latest National 2(South) fixture, kick off 3pm.
It remains to be seen whether the fixture break last week interrupts the momentum that the Hawks have built with 6 consecutive victories leading up to the week off, placing them in an impressive second place in the table behind the Redingensians Rams.
However, it will have given the Hawks a chance to give the players a rest, give the various knocks and injuries extra time to heal and allow head coach Luke Allen to analyse the season so far and plan for the matches ahead as the season approaches winter and the Christmas period and with it often heavy pitches.
The Hawks now embark on a run of five fixtures leading up to Christmas, three of them away from home, but they will be looking to extend their unbeaten run at Birmingham this weekend.
Head coach Luke Allen has again kept consistency with his selection. There is just one change in the forward pack with Alex Bradley returning to No8 and Marcus Lowe to the bench. The backs also has just one change with Dan Barnes coming in at outside half as Roddy Giles is injured and Finn Pietersen unavailable. Barnes is a familiar face for Hawks supporters and returns to the club on loan for the rest of the season following spells at Chinnor, The Rams and more recently Rosslyn Park.
Two of the Hawks’ players reach important and well deserved milestones this week.
Xavier Andre will make his 150th appearance for the Hawks. Andre has been a constant name on the team sheet over the past few seasons either at centre or wing and his speed and skill has resulted in many Hawks scores.
Hooker Tom Emery has again impressed this season with his total commitment to the cause displays. He will join the ‘100 Club’ on Saturday with his 100th appearance for the club.
Birmingham and Solihull won promotion from Midlands 3 last season but with Chinnor winning their playoff, were placed in National 2(South) due to an imbalance of teams. They have found it difficult to make their mark and currently lie 15th in the league table but they weren’t helped by a deduction of 5points which were carried over from last year.
The Midland team have won just three of their ten fixtures, the first at their Portway ground where Old Redcliffians were beaten 42-38, then followed victory in Guernsey by 28-19. Their third win came in their latest fixture when they won 19-12 at London Irish Wild Geese. Most of their defeats have been close contests so the Hawks will have to be concentrated and at their best if they want to come away with the points.
The Hawks last played the Midland club when they played under the name Pertempts Bees. They reverted back to the Birmingham name at the end of the 2008 season.
15 Sam Randall,, 14 George Wood, 13 Ryan O’Neill, 12 Xavier Andre, 11 Liam O’Neill 10 Dan Barnes, 9 Leo Webb
1 Brad Cook, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Jake Albon, 5 Dave Hyde, 6 Sam Lunnon, 7 Tom Hall, 8 Alex Bradley
Rory Mason, George Primett, Adam Neal, Marcus Lowe , Ross MacDougall,
Tomorrow (Friday), the Henley Hawks Vultures (Vets) have a game away at Camberley, kick off 7.30pm.
Elsewhere this weekend, on Saturday, the Vikings XV (3rd XV) travel to play Witney 2nd, kick off 2.30pm while on Sunday, the Henley Hawks Women travel to Southampton to play Trojans RFC in their latest league game, kick off 2pm.
On Sunday, all the mini and junior age groups have training, except the U14 who have a home match’ against Warwickshire side Claverdon RFC.