This final game of 2016 is also the first game of the second half of the season. Chinnor having been top of the league since the start will be all out to maintain this position. This is a significant game in many respects between the two leading clubs in Oxfordshire, for many years, sincethe times they frequently met in the finalsof the Oxfordshire Cup at Iffley Road.
In terms of the National League the Hawks have held sway for many years having reached the dizzy heights of level 2at the time of the millenium which resulted inclubs such as Worcester Warriors, BristolandExeter Chiefs, whohave reached the Premiership, beingregularly played and occasionally beaten plus championship sides like Bedford ,Cornish Pirates ( Penzance ) and latterly Richmond on their fixture list.
With the encroachment of professionalism the Hawks have found it difficult to play at such levels or maintain a regular place in Division 1 .In contrast Chinnor, this season, have reached the highest level in their history ( foundedin 1963) having started the seasonunbeaten in their first ten games which included defeat of the Hawks at Dry Leas in the second game, 22-13. They obviously recruited well to build this success. Of late they have slipped losing two games and last Saturday drew away at Taunton 13-13 a side thatdefeated the Hawks four weeks earlier, also at home, 38-27. Chinnorhave a further incentive to win as they never donethe double over the Hawks.
The Hawks suffered yet another narrow defeat at a rain soaked Barnstaple last Saturday, However they are hopeful of fielding a stronger more settled team for this challenging game at Chinnor.
They are expecting to select a team which shows just one change amongst the forwards. This is at hooker as Stuart Philpott, who has started in recent matches is not available. However Tom Emery, who has acted as replacement in recent games, will start.
The backsare strengthened in the centre by the return of Liam O’Neill, who has recovered from concussion suffered against Taunton. He will play at centre where he will partner Connor Hayhow who returns after being on duty with London Scottish. The half backs , Joe Butler and James Stevenson Wright , are the same that played at Barum but Alan Awcock who has been away on work commitments for the past three weeks returns at full back and expecs to be regularly playing for the remainder of the season. George Jackson is a replacement having just recovered from injury.
Director of Rugby Nigel Dudding expressed the view that the side selected for this game would have beaten Barnstaple. He is expecting that up to ten players will return to the Hawks squad in the New Year.
This game at Chinnor kicks off a 2.30 pm and the Hawks are hoping for maximum support for a game between two keen local rivals..
15. Alan Awcock, 14. Xavier Andre, 13.Connor Hayhow, 12. Liam O’Neill, 11. Simon Perry, 1. Jim Hadfield, 2. Tom Emery, 3. Zaki Chamnaouii, 4 Dave Clements (capt).5. Jake Albon, 6. David Hyde, 7. Tom Hall, 8. Marcus Lowe 16.Sam Beckett, 17. Connor Morrison, 18.Scott White, 19.James Comben, 20.George Jackson