Preview: Ambitious Elthamians Challenge the Hawks

Old Elthamsians come to Dry Leas this Saturday riding high, second in Division 2 (South), unbeaten with a 100% record, hell bent on gaining promotion to National 1 in this their third season in Division 2 (South).

Since Gavin Lach took over as director of rugby they have gained five promotions ineight years. During this time they have played at Dry Leas onone occasion, two seasons ago, their first year in Division 2 (South). This was in 2014/15,  a promotion season for the Hawks, who did the double over them 48-19(h) and 23-18 (a).

Lach says that this isdue to an excellent coaching system. “We’re closely linked to Eltham College who are driving a long term plan to become a centre of sporting excellence and championship-winning teams from 14s to 18s”

OEs are now starting to benefit from the arrival of experienced players from higher leagues such as ex-Coventry wing Dom Lespierre and former Esher Lock Ian Kench.They still have one of the best place kickers in the league in fly-half Tom White who averages 350 points per season. At present, on 89, he is just 8 points ahead of the Hawks’ George Jackson.

The Hawks, despite the disappointment of losing at Cinderford have not made numerous changes for this game. Ore have been in the backs where they welcome back Alan Awcock. This versatile experienced back has mot been available on a regular basis for the last three games. His work commitments are now less for the next few  games . He will take over from Liam O’Neill at full back this week. James Comben continues at fly-half.

Connor Hayhow, who has moved over from London Scottish in recent weeks and featured on the wing at Cinderford will be at left centre, his preferred position, in place of Joe Butler.

There is just one alteration in the forwards starting line up where the experienced Stuart Philpott comes in at hooker in place of Tom Emery who switches to the bench in his place.

O.E’s are on the crest of a wave, just one point behind league leaders Chinnor, and are therefore at the highest point they have ever been in the league history. The Hawks will accept the challenge to knock them off their perch on their home territory. Could be a game to savour.