Tough Test for Hawks with Visit From Canterbury

Tomorrow (Saturday) brings another tough test for the Hawks, with the visit of Canterbury RFC to Dry Leas, for the latest National 2 (South) fixture, kick off 3pm.

Although the Kent side have not found things easy this season since being relegated from National 1, they are old adversaries of the Hawks and will provide a stern test.

On the face of it, a draw away at Bury St Edmunds is not a bad result. The Suffolk side are a good, well organised side but the Hawks were 25-15 ahead with twenty minutes to go and will be frustrated they couldn’t see the game out. Henley’s three tries were scored by backs, two for Alex Harmes and one for centre James Davies. However, they did pick up injuries to Will Crow and Guy Rawsthorn.

Canterbury returned to National 2 (South) after a season in National 1 where they found life difficult, winning only two matches all season. They made an indifferent start to this campaign losing four of their first five games only beating early pace setters Worthing. Since then, they haven’t found any consistency and have been in the lower half of the table for most of the season. Last week, they picked up their eighth win of the season with a 21-12 victory over Barnes. Canterbury are now in 13th position.

The Hawks travelled to Kent back in October and came away with a 19-10 victory. Before this season, the last time the two clubs met was in the 2018-19 season when there was a three way contest between Canterbury, the Hawks and Tonbridge as to who was going to finish runners up to the Rams. In the end, Canterbury finished one point ahead of both Henley and Tonbridge and were promoted to National 1. Canterbury did the double over the Hawks that season, winning 33-26 in Kent and 32-29 at Dry Leas.

The Hawks are now cemented in fifth position in the league, ten points behind fourth placed Worthing but ten points ahead of sixth placed Leicester Lions. Clifton have moved back to the top of the table after a 57-31 win at Westcliff and have 85 points. In the top of the table clash, Esher beat Redruth 32-12. Just three points separate the top four sides now with Redruth second on 84 points and Esher third on 82. Also on 82 points are Worthing who beat Leicester Lions 35-19. Esher and Worthing do have a game in hand. Elsewhere in the league, there were also wins for Guernsey, Rochford Hundred and Dings Crusaders.

Head coach Luke Allen has made seven changes for this weeks Canterbury clash. Two of them are positional.

In the forwards, Ollie Frostick comes into the front row, replacing Rory Mason. Jake Albon returns to lead the side from the second row with Sam Lunnon moving to wing forward.

There is a new half back pairing with Toby Gilbey back in the side replacing the injured Will Crow, and he partners Joe Butler who gets his chance at outside half. Cail Cookland moves to full back, a position he has occupied a number of times this season, while Will Panday comes into the centre.

Brad Cook reaches a milestone this week. The prop will make his 100th appearance for the Hawks.

Henley Hawks

15 Cail Cookland, 14 Reuben Norville , 13 Will Panday, 12 James Davies, 11 George Wood,
10 Joe Butler, 9 Toby Gilbey,
1 Brad Cook, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Ollie Frostick, 4 Jake Albon(Capt), 21 Ben Harrison, 6 Sam Lunnon, 7 Tom Hall, 8 Alex Bradley

Reps: 16 Samson Adejimi, 17 Charlie Hughes, 18 Will Bordill, 19, Marcus Lowe, 20 Matt Dalrymple

The Henley Bulls (2nd XV) are also in action on Saturday, travelling the short distance to take on Bracknell 2nd XV. Kick off is 2.30pm.

League leaders Henley Vikings, have a home game on Saturday, another local derby against Berkshire Shire Hall. Kick off is also 2.30pm.