Henley Hawks vs Old Albanian - Saturday, December 15th, kick-off 3pm
By Nick Pitson
Henley Hawks welcome Old Albanian RFC to Dry Leas tomorrow for their latest National 2 (South) fixture, kick off at 3pm. The Hawks are hoping for a good crowd as this is the last home game before Christmas, in what is shaping up to be a pivotal clash between two in-form sides. The Old Boys will certainly provide a stern test for the Hawks and it promises to be an entertaining game.
The Hawks continue to consolidate their position in the top three and returned from the Channel Islands with a hard-fought victory last week in a game played in atrocious conditions. There are now two important games before the Christmas break, tomorrow against Old Albanian and next week away at Barnes. The Hawks will be looking to keep the winning momentum into the New Year as the first match in 2019 is the big local derby at home to the Rams on January 5th.
It was an excellent, disciplined performance against a large Guernsey outfit who attempted to use their bigger forwards to gain a dominant edge against the Hawks. However, Henley played with intelligence given the conditions, and also produced a magnificent defensive display to set up the victory. The Hawks forwards again excelled in the loose and were able to capitalise on mistakes from the pressure they created.
After the bruising encounter in Guernsey, Henley head coach Luke Allen has made five changes to his starting line-up for this fixture, four of them in the forwards.
For the first time in a number of weeks, there is a change in the front row with Zac Clarke starting at loose head prop in place of Brad Cook, who is on the bench. There is a new combination in the second row with ex-Chinnor man, Ross Parkins making his long awaited debut after recovering from injury and replacing Jake Albon who picked up a knock last weekend. He will be lining up alongside the returning David Hyde. Scott White comes into the back row at wing forward in place of Tom Hall, who also picked up a knock from the Guernsey game. The only change in the back line is Leo Webb returning to scrum half in place of Ross McDougall.
Old Albanian were relegated at the end of last season after two seasons in National 1. The have made a solid start to this campaign having won nine of their fourteen fixtures to date and they currently lie in sixth position in the league, nine points clear of Redruth in seventh. Last week they thumped London Irish Wild Geese 56-0, so the Hawks will have to be at their best this week. Old Albanian are also the only team to have beaten the league leaders, the Rams so far this season. This fixture will also mark the first time that Hawks captain, Sam Lunnon faces off against his old club.
The last time the Hawks met the Old Boys was in National League 1 in the 2013-14 season. Albanians ran out winners in both fixtures, winning 17-10 at Dry Leas and 19-10 in Hertfordshire.
Big thanks to G.D Evans Interiors for sponsoring today’s game and to The Head Partnership Solicitors for sponsoring the Match Ball.
The full Hawks line-up for the match is as follows:
1 Zac Clarke, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Ross Parkins, 5 David Hyde, 6 Sam Lunnon (c), 7 Scott White, 8 Alex Bradley, 9 Leo Webb, 10 Roddy Giles, 11 George Griffiths, 12 Dan Barnes, 13 Xavier Andre, 14 George Wood, 15 Sam Randal. Replacements: 16 Brad Cook, 17 Elliot Deacon, 18 Liam Goodison, 19 Finn Pietersen, 20 Ryan O’Neill
There is plenty of rugby at Dry Leas on Saturday.
The Henley Hawks Bulls (2nd XV) are also at home to Old Albanian, kick off at 2.15pm.
The Henley Vultures (Vets XV) are at home to Farnham, kick off 1pm.
Sadly, the Vikings game away to Newbury has had to be cancelled.
On Sunday, the Henley Hawks Women play their latest league game away at Thurrock, kick off at 2pm.