What better way to start the new year for rugby fans than a crunch table topping local derby in National 2 (South) to wet the appetite. Saturday will see second placed Henley Hawks take on the league leaders Redingensians Rams at Dry Leas, kick off at 3pm with supporters encouraged to arrive early as a large crowd is expected.
Both sides come into this game in good form. The Hawks will be full of confidence now having won 11 out of their last 12 games. They will be grateful for the Christmas break as it has given them time to recover and rest after some gruelling fixtures in the lead up to Christmas, a couple of them in appalling conditions.
Head coach Luke Allen and his coaches are playing down their success so far this season. However, the Hawks are in a much better place now than they were when they played the Rams in Sonning back in September. That day, the Hawks, and their coaching staff were at the start of their development and competed well for an hour before the strength and class of the Rams took over and the Berkshire side ran out deserved winners by 43-13.
Since then, the Hawks have developed into a good side , going from strength to strength and should be in a position to give the Rams a hard time tomorrow. The Hawks faithful are optimistic and would like some bragging rights for a few months.
The Rams, however, are top of the league for a reason and they too will be full of confidence and hope to do the double over the Hawks. The are the best side in the league by some distance and have won all but one of their sixteen matches this season, securing a try bonus point in all of their victories. Their only defeat came back in September when they lost 18-10 Old Albanian.
With the two clubs being just six miles apart, there are many links between the clubs that go back many years. The first recorded game for Henley (or Old Henliensians as they were known) in August 1930 was against the Old Redingensians A XV. The Henley side won 6-3 that day.
Ex Hawk and popular player at Dry Leas Robbie Stapley continues to ply his trade at No8 for the Rams.
The Hawks are not training or making their team selection until Wednesday evening. Settled selection has been one if the trademarks for the Hawks success this season and Head coach Luke Allen expects to pick from all the squad who played in the victory at Barnes before Christmas except Xav Andre who is unavailable. Also available again are props Brad Cook and Zach Clarke.
The Hawks will also hope that back rowers Marcus Hall and Tom Hall come through fitness tests and put themselves into contention for selection.
The Henley Hawks squad will be selected from:
Sam Randall, George Wood, Dan Barnes, George Griffiths, Roddy Giles, Leo Webb,
George Primett, Tom Emery, Dave Manning, Ross Parkins, Dave Hyde, Sam Lunnon, Scott White, Alex Bradley, Zach Clarke, Brad Cook, Marcus Lowe, Tom Hall, Elliot Deacon, Vlad Dumbrava, Liam Goodison, Liam O’Neill, Ryan O’Neill
Elsewhere, them only other game involving Henley’s other sides this weekend is the Vikings XV (3rd) away to Redingensians, kick off 2pm at Old Bath Road.
The Henley Hawks Women have no game this week.