Following their run of three successive victories, the Hawks go into Saturday's clash with League Leaders Bishop's Stortford with confidence. Although the winning margins over Barnes and Clfton were just two points, and with the score hanging in the balance in the closing minutes of both games, the Hawks have accumulated 14 points which moves them closer to the safer confines of mid-table. These have been achieved by a surge in team spirit which was difficult to detect in their run of defeats before the Christmas break.
Yet when they played today’s opponents Bishop’s Stortford away in November they surprised them despite going to the game with five consecutive defeats behind them. With just sixty minutes to play the Hawks led 17-10 having scored three tries only one of which was converted. Indeed had their place kicking beenat all reliable they could have been23-10 ahead. The Home side won the game by storming over with two converted tries from attacking line outs in the closingstages of the game.
Stortford come to Dry Leas on the crest of a wave riding top of the league with a crunching nine try winover London Irish Wild Geese last week who were reduced to 14 players when lock Andrew Evans was given a red card for stamping. To meet this challenge the Hawks make apositional change in the backs. Liam O’Niell, who scored a brace of tries against Clifton lastweek, starting at full back, used his skill as a finisher to do this. moves to the centre. His place at No. 15 is taken by Sam Portland who also ran in two tries in this game. Harry Burn, who made a good impression when he came off the replacements bench mid-way in the firsthalf, will make his first start for the Hawks on the left wing. A versatile player, who has played for the Bulls at scrum-half, has featured as a scorer of tries at that level on a number of occasions
There are two changes also amongst the forwards. It appears to be Tom Emery’s turn to start as hooker withStuart Philpott, starting as a replacement this week. Bothhavestruck up a good rapport with the forwards in the line outsand Emery hascontributed as ascorer of tries from driving mauls.
Henley Hawks v Bishop’s Stortford (kick-off 2pm)
15. Sam Portland, 14. Harry Burn, 13. Xavier Andre, 12. Liam O’Neil, 11. Simon Perry, 10 Joe Butler, 9. George Jackson,1. Dave Manning, 2. Tom Emery.3. Ziana Mountot-Alexis, 4. Dave Clements (capt.) 5. Jake Albon, 6. Tom Hall, 7.Rob Bell, 8. Marcus Lowe
16. Jim Hadfield, 17. Stuart Philpott, 18. David Hyde, 19. Scott White,20. Tommy Haynes
Henley Vikings v Newbury Stags (12 noon)