After last week’s welcome week off, table toppers Henley Hawks are back in National 2 (South) action on Saturday when they travel to Bristol to take on old rivals Clifton RFC. Kick off at the Station Road Ground in Cribbs Causeway is at 2.30pm.
The results two weeks ago saw the Hawks return to the top of the table following their bonus point win at home against Westcliff in atrocious conditions. They lead the table by one point from former leaders Tonbridge Juddians who just squeezed past Old Albanian 26-24 but failed to gain the all important bonus point. Third placed Taunton Titans and fourth placed Redruth both had their games postponed because of the weather but are still well in the hunt for the promotions places. With all of the top four sides having played each other home and away now, there is all to play for in the final weeks of the season.
This week, Tonbridge travel to play Westcliff, Taunton are away to Barnes while Redruth have a home game against Old Albanian.
Clifton is Bristol’s oldest club, they will pose a huge threat and this will not be an easy game for the Hawks who will have to be at their best. It was Clifton who won 20-17 at Dry Leas earlier in the season when the Hawks threw away a 17-3 lead in a game played in driving rain. The Bristol side made a good start to the campaign and are currently fifth having won fifteen of their twenty three matches to date. They also had a break last week and the week before, won comfortably at Worthing 24-10. The Clifton head coach Mat Salter is keen for his side to finish the season strongly and with Tonbridge and Redruth also still to play, Clifton will certainly have a say in the promotion race..
Last week gave the Hawks the opportunity to rest up, and get over the knocks and niggles from previous weeks and to recharge the batteries in preparation for the final weeks of the season.
Head coach Luke Allen shows good continuity in selection with a strong side for the Clifton game, showing just three changes from the last game against Westcliff.
The only changes in the forwards is in the front row. Props Brad Cook and Rory Mason return to the side with George Primett and Charlie Hughes taking up bench duties. The rest of the pack is unchanged again with the stable second row pairing of Dave Hyde and Jake Albon, and the back row trio of Sam Lunnon, Marcus Lowe and Alex Bradley as reliable as ever.
Scrum half Ewan Fenley returns to the side to partner Alex Burrage at half back. The rest of the side is unchanged from the Westcliff game.
Also in the game squad and on the bench is new scrum half signing Will Crow. He has joined from Richmond for the rest of the season and will be a valuable addition to the squad. He has played against the Hawks for Dorking in National 2 and Rosslyn Park in National 1 and has championship Cup experience with Richmond last season.
15 Will Janes, 14 Reuben Norville, 13 Will Panday, 12 Samir Kharbouch , 11 Jack Robinson , 10 Alex Burrage, 9 Ewan Fenley
1 Brad Cook, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Rory Mason, 4 Jake Albon, 5 Dave Hyde, 6 Marcus Lowe, 7 Sam Lunnon, 8 Alex Bradley,
Replacements : 16 Brad Cook, 17 Rory Mason,18 Scott White, 19 Will Crow, 20 Xav Andre,
Rugby starts today (Friday) for Henley sides. Tonight, The Henley Vets (Vultures) are due to travel to play Guildford under the lights. Kick off at Guildford is 8pm but the game is under threat because of weather conditions.
Elsewhere, the Hawks 2nd (Bulls) XV have no game this week but the Hawks 3rd (Vikings) have a away game on Saturday, making the journey to the north of the county to take on Banbury 2nd XV. Kick off is 2.15pm.
The Henley Hawks Women have another Plate Competition game on Sunday and they make the long trip to take on Sheffield RFC. Kick off on Sunday is 2.15pm but again supporters should keep an eye on the club website for any planned inspection due to current weather conditions.