Henley Hawks face probably their biggest and most important fixture of the season so far on Saturday when they host table toppers Blackheath RFC at Dry Leas. Kick off is 3pm.
The Hawks’ bonus point win at Westcliff has propelled them up to third in the league table but just one point behind leaders Blackheath and second placed Barnes. In fact, just one point separates the top five sides and with two further tough fixtures to follow (Worthing and Dorking), the Hawks will want to make it three consecutive wins to consolidate their place, challenging at the top of the league.
Last week at Westcliff was not a vintage performance from the Hawks but again it was a winning one, and this time with a bonus point. Six tries were scored, all by forwards, with Ben Harrison claiming a brace and Dave Manning, Tom Vooght, Sam Lunnon and Alex Bradley all getting on the score sheet again. Max Titchener is now the leagues leading scorer with 69points following his eight point haul last week.
The Hawks should go into this week’s game with plenty of confidence but it will be a much sterner test. They will be looking to eradicate unforced errors which are getting in the way of building any purposeful momentum and take the game to Blackheath right from the start.
After the bruising game against Westcliff, Head coach Luke Allen has had to make six changes to the starting line up for this week’s match.
The are four changes in the backs with both wings and both centres different to last week. Reuben Norville makes a welcome return to the wing as does Rhyan Scott-Young. Louis Flynn makes his first league start for the Hawks and is joined by the returning Adam Hakimian in the centre.
In the forwards, Marcus Lowe comes into the second row with Ben Harrison taking his place on the bench. Tom Hall has provided a good impact from the bench in recent weeks and he starts at wing forward with Scott White covering replacement duties.
15 Ryan Crowley, 14 Reuben Norville, 13 Adam Hakimian, 12 Louis Flynn 11 Rhyan Scott-Young,
10 Max Titchener, 9 Will Crow
1 Dave Manning (c), 2 Tom Emery, 3 Rory Mason, 4 Marcus Lowe, 5 Sam Lunnon, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Tom Vooght, 8 Alex Bradley
Reps: 16 Luke Shpylka , 17 Morgan Macrae , 18 Scott White, 19 Ben Harrison, 20 James Davies
Blackheath RFC are one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world and have a long and proud history. The last time the Hawks met Blackheath in league competition was back in the 2015-16 season when both teams were playing in National 1. Blackheath won both games that season and the Hawks were relegated. Since then, Blackheath continued to be a top side in National 1 until last season when they too were relegated into National 2(East).
Blackheath were many peoples pre season favourites for the league title and will arrive at Henley as league leaders having won five of their six games. They also have a game in hand on the rest of the top teams. Their only defeat came a couple of weeks ago at Old Albanian but they have recorded wins against Dorking (29-10), Rochford Hundred (64-5), Canterbury (57-12) and Bury St Edmunds (46-28). Last week they beat Guernsey Raiders 48-19. The London side have scored the most points so far and conceded the least so the Hawks will know the size of the task ahead of them.
The league is wide open with leaders Blackheath and Barnes on 26 points and the Hawks, Worthing and Old Albanian on 25. Last week there were no real upsets with wins for Barnes, Bury St Edmunds, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge Juddian and Worthing as well as Blackheath and the Hawks.
The Henley Bulls (2nd XV) are also at home to Blackheath 2 on Saturday. They kick off at the slightly earlier time of 2pm (tbc).
The Henley Vikings (3rd XV) continue their league campaign with an away trip to Hungerford RFC. Kick off is 3pm.