Henley Hawks have arguably their toughest test of the season so far on Saturday when they make the long trip to Cornwall to take on old rivals, Redruth RFC. Kick off for this latest National 2 South fixture at the Rec Ground in Redruth is 3pm.
The Hawks will be in buoyant mood for the trip to Cornwall as last weekend was a good one for them all round. Not only did they put in an excellent, clinical performance to come away with a bonus point victory at Worthing, but third placed Taunton beat leaders Tonbridge Juddians 20-5. These results have led to the Hawks leapfrog Tonbridge and take top position in the league table. Also, Taunton failed to gain a bonus point so the Hawks, on 80 points, now lead the table by four points from the Kent side, with Taunton in third a further four points adrift. Tonbridge do have a game in hand, but they come to Dry Leas next week (Feb 1st) for a massive game.
However, before then, the Hawks have the challenge that is Redruth away. In January, visits to Cornwall often include having to tame the elements as well as the opposition and the Hawks will be hoping for some dry weather in that part of the world that will suit their playing style.
But either way, what a challenge this promises to be as Redruth are the form team in the division. Last week they comfortably at Dings Crusaders 37-8, not an easy place to go, making it seven consecutive victories and cementing themselves in fourth place in the table but now only five points behind Taunton. On their day they are capable of beating anyone in the league.
There have numerous battles between the Hawks and Redruth over the years, often close, tight games. This was the case back in October this season at Dry Leas, when the Reds came from 20-6 down to secure a 20-20 draw in the final minutes. Last season, the Cornishmen finished in 7th place in the table. The Hawks did the double over the Reds last term winning 22-16 in Cornwall and then 21-17 at Dry Leas.
Make no mistake, Redruth will bring their own brand of uncompromising Cornish rugby built around a strong pack of forwards, and in front of their own vociferous crowd, will be a major test for the Hawks.
The Hawks backed up their victory over Taunton last week in excellent fashion at Worthing. Five tries were scored and it was also an opportunity to make full use of the bench. Dave Hyde excelled in the second row and Xav Andre and Samir Kharbouch were a constant threat in the centre. It was good to see the Hawks up their game in the second half when it was needed and the bonus point was richly deserved.
With a winning run now of nine games, Head coach Luke Allen is able to keep the continuity going and can name an unchanged side for this weeks trip to Cornwall. George Wood does come onto the bench in place of Jimmy Wright.
15 Will Janes, 14 George Griffiths, 13 Xav Andre, 12 Samir Kharbouch, 11 Reuben Norvill, 10 Ben Bolster, Ewan Fenley
1 George Primett, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Rory Mason, 4 Jake Albon, 5 Dave Hyde, 6 Marcus Lowe, 7 Sam Lunnon, 8 Alex Bradley,
Replacements : 16 Charlie Hughes, 17 George Probyn ,18 Scott White, 19 Jimmy Wright, 20 Jack Robinson,
Elsewhere, the Hawks 2nd (Bulls) XV have a rearranged league game this week and travel to play Ampthill 2nd XV. Kick off is 1.30pm. The Hawks 3rd (Vikings) have no game this week but the Henley Vets (Vultures) do have a game away at Harlequins Vets XV. Arrangements are still to be confirmed for this one.
On Sunday, Henley Hawks Women have a home league game against Bath. The game is at Dry Leas and kicks off at 2pm.