Henley Hawks travel down the M4 on Saturday for a game against another Bristol side, old rivals Dings Crusaders RFC. Dings have moved to a new ground in Frenchay, Bristol and kick off at the Shaftesbury Park Ground is 3pm.
The Hawks are now back on track as far as the season is concerned, getting some momentum going and are one of the favourites to be challenging for the top honours at the end of the season. It is a very tough league with quite a number of sides capable of winning against anyone else on any given day. This week is no exception and the Henley will have to be at their best. There have been numerous battles between the Hawks and the Crusaders over the years and the Bristol side are always known for their combative approach and are hard to beat especially at home.
The Hawks produced a good workmanlike performance last week against Barnes. Prop Charlie Hughes was on hand to grab a hat trick of tries and both the scrum and the line out were dominating features of the win. The forwards dominated the loose exchanges with the back row outstanding. Although the visitors enjoyed their fair share of possession, Henley were never really threatened, defended well until the last quarter, but with the game won, they allowed Barnes to score a couple of late tries. The Hawks will hope for drier conditions in Bristol so they can unleash their speedy and exciting backs and give them plenty of opportunities to run at Dings on Saturday.
The same three teams continue to take the first three positions in the league table and now there are just three points separating them. Last week, leaders Taunton and second placed Tonbridge both won but failed to pick up the all important bonus point. Taunton overcame Bury St Edmunds 22-15 at home, while Tonbridge also enjoyed a tough home victory over Esher, 17-11. The Hawks still lie in third place but their bonus point win means there are now only three points separating the top three teams. Elsewhere in the league, Leicester Lions continue their good form with an away win at Bournemouth, while Westcliff recorded only their second victory of the season by surprising Redruth by 24-19.
Head coach Luke Allen has made just three changes for the trip to Dings. George Wood comes in at full back in place of the injured Liam O’Neill. In the forwards, prop Brad Cook returns to the starting line up to join Tom Emery and Charlie Griffiths in the front row. Strength in depth is evident in the back row with Marcus Lowe and Will Bordill swapping places this week. Lowe starts and Bordill takes his place on the bench.
Dings Crusaders have won five out of their twelve fixtures so far this season and currently lie in 11th place in the table. Their victories have come at home against Old Redcliffians and Barnes, and away at Bournemouth, Westcliff and Sutton and Epsom. They come into this fixture on the back of a mixed November. They started the month with successive victories over Old Reds and Bournemouth, but they then lost a high scoring game against top side Taunton 45-27 and then last week went down 32-10 at Worthing.
Last season, the Hawks did the double over the Crusaders in two tight games, winning 20-15 at Dry Leas and 13-10 in Bristol.
George Wood, Jack Robinson, Xav Andre, Alex Burrage , Reuben Norville ,Ben Bolster, Ewan Fenley,
Brad Cook, Tom Emery, Charlie Hughes, Dave Hyde, Jake Albon, Marcus Lowe, Alex Bradley, Sam Lunnon
Reps: Elliot Deacon, Will Bordill, Rory Mason, Samir Kharbouch, George Griffiths
Elsewhere, , the Hawks 2nd (Bulls) XV have an Oxfordshire Cup tie. They travel to take on Banbury, Kick off is 2.15pm.
The 3rd (Vikings) XV have no game this week.
The Vets (Vultures) XV are the only game at Dry Leas on Saturday. They take on London Irish Wild Geese, kick off is 2pm but this is to be confirmed.