Henley Hawks vs Rams - Saturday, January 5th, kick-off 3pm
By Nick Pitson
What better way to start the new year for rugby fans than a crunch table topping local derby in National 2 South to whet the appetite? Tomorrow, second placed Henley Hawks take on the league leaders, the Rams at Dry Leas, kick off at 3pm with supporters encouraged to arrive early as a large crowd is expected.
Both sides come into this game in good form. The Hawks will be full of confidence now having won 11 out of their last 12 games, but will have been grateful for the Christmas break as it has given them time to recover and rest after some gruelling fixtures in the lead up to Christmas, a couple of them in appalling conditions.
Head coach, Luke Allen and his coaches are playing down their success so far this season. However, the Hawks are in a much better place now than they were when they played the Rams in Sonning back in September. That day, the Hawks, and their coaching staff were at the start of their development and competed well for an hour before the strength and class of the Rams took over and the Berkshire side ran out deserved winners by 43-13.
Since then, the Hawks have developed into a good side, going from strength to strength and should be in a position to give the Rams a hard time tomorrow. The Hawks faithful are optimistic and would like some bragging rights for a few months.
The Rams, however, are top of the league for a reason and they too will be full of confidence and hope to do the double over the Hawks. The are the best side in the league by some distance and have won all but one of their sixteen matches this season, securing a try bonus point in all of their victories. Their only defeat came back in September when they lost 18-10 Old Albanian.
With the two clubs being just six miles apart, there are many links between the clubs that go back many years. The first recorded game for Henley (or Old Henliensians as they were known) in August 1930 was against the Old Redingensians A XV. The Henley side won 6-3 that day.
Ex-Hawk, and popular player at Dry Leas, Robbie Stapley continues to ply his trade at No. 8 for the Rams and will certainly be a threat.
For the Hawks, there is continuity in team selection from the Barnes game which is good news for both the coaches and supporters alike. Brad Cook returns to the front row in place of George Primett who reverts to the bench. Elsewhere, Liam O’Neill comes back into the starting XV on the wing, with George Griffiths moving to outside centre in place of Xav Andre who is away. On the bench, Hawks welcome back Tom Hall and Marcus Lowe who had both been out injured.
Big thanks to Liam O’Neill and Mark Pritchard-Jeffs for sponsoring today’s game and to G.D Evans Interiors for sponsoring the Match Ball. Your support is greatly appreciated.
1. Brad Cook, 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. Liam O’Neill, 12. Dan Barnes, 13. George Griffiths, 14. George Wood, 15. Sam Randle
Replacements: 16. George Primett, 17. Zac Clarke, 18. Tom Hall, 19. Marcus Lowe, 20. Ryan O’Neill
Elsewhere, the only other game involving Henley sides this weekend is the Vikings XV (3rd XV) away to Rams, kick off 2pm at Old Bath Road.
The Henley Hawks Women have no game this week.