Hawks welcome Titans for crunch clash

Henley Hawks  vs   Taunton Titans - Sunday, February 24th, kick-off 2pm

By Nick Pitson

Following the win against Redruth last week, the Hawks return to Dry Leas on Sunday for this weeks’ National 2 (South) fixture at home to Taunton Titans. This game was originally due to be played on 2nd Feb but was cancelled due to the snow. The Sunday kick off avoids clashing with the big 6 Nations games on Saturday.

The Hawks performance against Redruth was not the most fluent of the season, however, as coach Luke Allen put it, “It’s a win”, and the Hawks, with a good first half performance didn’t really look like losing the game, despite defending for long periods.

It was the back row who really took the game to the Cornishmen, with Tom Hall, Alex Bradley and Liam Goodison all putting in fine performances.

The challenges come thick and fast for the Hawks and this week 4th placed, Taunton Titans are the visitors. The Titans were one of the pre-season favourites to challenge for the title and apart from the odd defeat here and there, they have pushed themselves back into contention and now lie in 4th place, just one above the Hawks who are still in fifth position. With the Rams back to winning ways last week, The next four sides are only separated by nine points. For the Hawks and Taunton, this is their game in hand and a great chance to put in a real challenge to keep themselves in the contest to finish in the top two. Canterbury, Tonbridge, Taunton and The Hawks are now well clear of the rest of the league.

Taunton have won 16 of their 22 games so far and have secured twenty bonus which could be vital at the end of the season. In the game with the Hawks back in October, the Hawks won 17-13 in Somerset thanks to a Xav Andre try. Last week, the Titans won a close thrilling encounter at Bury St Edmunds 24-22. Since their defeat to Tonbridge in November, they have only lost once (in 10 games) and that was against 2nd placed Canterbury. They have had some close matches though recently against Old Albanian, Clifton and Redruth.

This is a crucial game for the Hawks and an another appetising fixture for the fans to enjoy. Patience will be key against the men from Somerset and the Hawks know they will be in for one of the toughest games of the season. For two years in a row, this fixture at Dry Leas has seen Titans full-back, Gary Kingdom win the game for the visitors with the last kick of the game. Henley will be wanting to put that right on Saturday.

Head coach, Luke Allen has made just three changes to the starting fifteen for this weeks game. Brad Cook comes in at hooker for the ever dependable,Tom Emery who misses his first game of the season. Skipper Sam Lunnon returns to the back row in place of Liam Goodison who takes his place on the bench. Marcus Lowe also returns to No8 in place of Alex Bradley. The back line is unchanged.

15 Liam O Neill, 14 Jack Robinson, 13 Xav Andre, 12 Dan Barnes, 11 George Griffiths, 10 Ben Bolster, 9 Leo Webb 1 George Primett, 2 Brad Cook, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Hyde, 5 Jake Albon 6 Sam Lunnon (Capt), 7 Tom Hall, 8 Marcus Lowe

Replacements: 16 Zac Clarke, 17 Elliot Deacon, 18 Scott White, 19 Liam Goodison, 20 Will Janes,

The 6 Nations games will be shown on the big screen in the clubhouse this weekend and all are welcome.