League Rugby Returns for Hawks

It’s been a long wait, but league rugby finally returns to Henley tomorrow (Saturday) with the Hawks taking on Old Albanian for their opening fixture in the new National 2 (South) campaign. Kick off at Dry Leas is 3pm.

It is seventeen months since both the Hawks and Old Albanian played their last league games, both on the 7th March 2020. Then the Hawks beat Esher at Dry Leas 46-20 while Old Albanian went down 10-16 at home to Westcliff. When the league table was finalised at the end of the 2019-20 season, the Hawks finished fourth while Old Albanian finished tenth.

Once again it is a very strong league but with two home games to start with, the Hawks have a good to get their season up and running quickly. After Albanian this week, newcomers Hinckley will visit Henley next Saturday. Barnstaple, Guernsey Raiders and Rochford Hundred have been promoted into the league while Canterbury rejoin having been relegated from National 1.

This is a tough start to the new campaign for the Hawks. Games against Old Albanian are often tight affairs with Henley winning both encounters during the 2019-2020 season, 25-18 at Dry Leas and 20-16 in St Albans. However, Old Albanian are a well established club having spent three years in National League 1 (2011-12) before an administration error led to a points deduction and relegation. They returned to National 1 for a season after winning a playoff in 2015-16.

The Hawks pre season has gone relatively well. Despite a home defeat to Tonbridge Juddians, they put in an excellent display against the Rams, only going down 12-19 to the National 1 side. Then last Thursday the Hawks edged a thrilling game against another local rival, Maidenhead winning 35-33 with a try in the closing minutes. In contrast, the Hertfordshire side had to call off a couple of their pre season games due to Covid but did take on local rivals Harpenden last Friday.

The Hawks have a strong squad to pick from ( the team for the Albanian game has not yet been selected). Much of the squad remain from the last season but there also some new faces that will be pushing for places. Cail Cookland has impressed at outside half during pre season. Cail was employed by Wasps as their assistant coach at Oxford College. He has previously played for Harrogate RFC and Leeds RFC Academy. The Hawks have also recruited two new props. Ollie Fristick is a Scotland U20 squad member who has also played for Ealing Trailfinders. Also from Ealing is loose head Lefty Zigiridis. Centre Saope Soko has also joined the Hawks from near neighbours the Rams.

The club have announced this week that second row Jake Albon will be the club captain for the coming season. Jake is in his 7th season with the club and Head Coach Luke Allen states,” Jake’s ability to manage his peers and conduct himself with a professional edge on and off the field, has not gone unnoticed (by players, coaches and spectators) and we look forward to working with Jake once again this season, to ensure the club is as successful as possible going forward.