Henley Hawks return to Dry Leas tomorrow (Saturday) to take on Barnes RFC, who make the short journey from the South West London suburbs for the latest National 2 (South) fixture.
The Hawks will be buoyant after last weeks excellent victory away at Esher, who were one of the fancied teams at the start of the campaign. After being 13-0 down at half time, it was a first class performance from the Hawks in the second half, one that Nigel Dudding, Director of Rugby, described as one if the best halves of rugby played by Henley that he had seen for a number of seasons.
The last two games at Dry Leas have been played in terrible weather, and Henley will hope for drier conditions this week so they can play their open, expansive game that was so successful at Esher. Last week, the forwards took over in the second half and created the platform for Ben Bolster to orchestrate the attacking moves. Recently, Henley have produced two outstanding away victories at Tonbridge and Esher but have stuggled at home against Redruth and Clifton. Again last week, Henley proved that they are capable of winning any game and will now be looking to find the consistency needed to compete at the top end of the table.
Elsewhere in the league last week, Taunton now top the league table following a comfortable victory in a local derby at Ding Crusaders. However, previous table toppers Tonbridge, like the Hawks the week before, had trouble with Clifton, and lost a close game in Bristol. The Hawks are still in third place in the league and Tonbridge second but there are now only four points separating the the top three teams. There is then a gap of five points to a chasing pack comprising Leicester Lions, Clifton, Redruth and Esher.
Head coach Luke Allen has made just a limited number of changes for this weeks game against the Londoners. There is excellent strength in depth in the squad allowing some players to rotate between the starting fifteen and the bench without disruption.
There are just two changes in the forwards. George Primett starts at prop in place of Brad Cook who is one of the replacements. Dave Hyde returns to the second row allowing Sam Lunnon to start at wing forward, with last week’s opening try scorer, Marcus Lowe reverting to the bench.
In the backs, Reuben Norville moves from full back to wing, allowing Liam O’Neill to return to full back. George Wood makes way for Norville. Xav Andre takes his place at centre in place of another of last weeks try scorers, Samir Kharbouch who is on the bench.
Barnes have struggled so far this season and lie in 12th place having won just two of their eleven fixtures. Their two victories came surprisingly away at Redruth and at home to bottom side Bournemouth. Last week, they picked up two bonus points despite losing 31-32 at home to Worthing.
Barnes returned to National 2(South) having won the London and South East Premier League during the 2017-18 season. Last season they finished 11th but lost two close games against the Hawks, 26-24 at Dry Leas and 24-17 in London. Barnes did beat the Hawks at home in 2016, winning 36-14.
Liam O’Neill , Jack Robinson, Xav Andre, Alex Burrage , Reuben Norville ,Ben Bolster, Ewan Fenley,
George Primett, Tom Emery, Charlie Hughes, Dave Hyde, Jake Albon, Will Bordill , Alex Bradley, Sam Lunnon
Reps: Brad Cook, Marcus Lowe, Rory Mason, Samir Kharbouch, George Wood
There are three games at Dry Leas on Saturday. As well as the Hawks, the 2nd (Bulls) XV take on Richmond Normans, Kick off is 2.00pm.
The 3rd (Vikings) XV have an Oxfordshire derby, also at home, taking on Oxford 2nd XV. Kick off is 2.30pm
The Vets (Vultures) XV have no game this week.
On Sunday, the Hawks Women are away to Old Albanian in their latest league match. Kick off in Hertfordshire is 2pm.