Henley Hawks travel deep into the London Kent area to play Old Elthamians who boast to be the second old boys in the country. They lie third in Division 2 ( South) a position they held at this time last season but they fell away thereafter plagued by injuries.
They have established themselves as a leading club in the current league bymeans of a successful youth policy based on Eltham College where they play their matches on the school playing fields. However there is evidence that they are changing policy securing players from championship clubs to secure promotion to Division 1 and above.
When the clubs met at Dry Leas in October O.E.’s ran out winners 30-20. It seems that about9 of that winning side will start today. They will however include Will Robinson at fly-half who is well known to Hawks’ supporters having been on loan from London Welsh in 2012/13 when the Hawks won the league title winning the vital decider at Dry Leas 55/27 before a record attendance of over 3,300. Another on the O.E’s list today, Nathan Morris was also on loan from the Welsh to Henley about that time. Robinson will probably share kicking duties with Tom White who now features at full back.Other players formerly withChampionshipsides are wing Dominic Lespierre( Coventry } and lock Ian Kench.
The Hawks it can be said again lost to Cinderford at Dry Leas last week by once again letting the game slip away in the second half through their own errors.. They were down 6-3 at half-time by two penalties thanks to the excellent goal kicking of full back l James Moffat. They started the second half well with the introduction of Tom Hall and Tom Emery taking the lead by some driving play, despite being one player short with centre Xavier Andre being sent to the sin bin four minutes into the second half with the industrious Rob Bell scoring what is becoming his customary try .helped by the despatch of Cinderford flanker Will Keenan to join Andre.. The Hawks then stepped back to allow Cindy scrum-half James Williams to sneak over for a try failing to control possession. Thuswith ten minutes of the game remaining the Hawks had surrendered their hard won lead at 13 -10
It was then the Hawks produced the try of the game with Joe Butler combining with wing Connor Hayhow with skliful inter-passing down the right wing over 50 metres with Butler touching down close to the corner flag followed by an excellent conversion by George Jackson.
With five minutes to go the Hawks were now favourites to win. BUT Cinderford bringing on their Gloucester veteran Adam Balding drove over for a converted try by wing Sam Goatley.
The Hawks had one minute left to pull the game out of the fire and their last chance came with a penalty from 40 metres.The chance of a draw wentwith Jackson’s kick fading past an uprightin the breeze
As is customary this season, and last, the Hawks field several changes in consecutive games. For this fixture these are amongst the forwards with the backs fielding the same line up as against Cinderford.
Major changes are in the back row with Connor Morrison having a shoulder injury and Tom Hall not avaible.Skipper Dave Clements moves from lock to no. 6, a positon he is familiar with. David Hyde returns from a week away take his place in the second row. Dave Manning switches to loose head prop whilst ZianaMontout Alexis swaps places with Jim Hadfield who is a replacement.
A tough assignment for the Hawks but they have proved to rise to the occasion against sides leading the league as Chinnor found at Christmas time. Hawks supporters should also be prepared to face the elements as there is no cover forthem on the open playing field.. This game will kick-off at 2 p.m so that players and spectators can watch the Six Nations game at Cardiff between England and Wales on the big TV screen afterwards.
Henley Hawks v Old Elthamians
15.Joe Butler, 14. Connor Hayhow, 13. Xavier Andre, 12. Liam O’Neill, 11. Simon Perry, 10. James Comben,9. George Jackson, 1. Dave Manning, 2. Stuart Philpott, 3. ZianaMontout -Alexis, 4. David Hyde, 5. Jake Albon .6. Dave Clements (capt.)7. Rob Bell, 8. Marcus Lowe 16. Tom Emery, 17, Jim Hadfield, 18. Tommy Haynes, 19. Sam Portland, 20 James Stevenson-Wright