HENLEY HAWKS play their first home game of the new season tomorrow (Saturday) against local rivals
HENLEY HAWKS play their first home game of the new season tomorrow (Saturday) against local rivals Chinnor.
The clubs did not meet last season as the Hawks were then in National 1.
It is a big day in the history of the club with the opening of its new club house by former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick ahead of kick-off at 3pm.
Chinnor come into the clash on the back of an opening day home win against the promoted London Irish Wild Geese 47-10, scoring seven tries.
The Hawks, however, have had some thinking to do after their narrow 23-18 defeat away at Redruth.
Head coach Pete Davies admits that his side ran out of ideas going forward and he has been working with the players to improve their decision making.
“In terms of attack we could have been a lot smarter,” he says. “We have been working hard in training on that.
“We have been looking at our patterns of play and structures to our game as well as a few technical aspects.”
He added: “Communication is also important and we have looked at improving that.”
The Hawks did earn a bonus point despite the defeat and Davies is not too disappointed with the performance.
Davies says: “It was good to get the bonus point away from home and we didn’t pick up any major injuries. Those are all positives. The game was a steep learning curve for a lot of our players, we had six guys who have never played at this level before and performed exceptionally well.”
He added: “I am not too disappointed with the result, Redruth finished fourth last season, only losing once at home, it was always going to be a tough ask and we only lost by five points.”
The Hawks squad have worked hard during their pre-season preparation and were hoping to be able to field a much more consistent side this campaign.
Although they will start this game with the same backs line-up as their last game they have changes in the forwards because of the unavailability of David Hyde and Connor Morrison.
Hyde, signed from Witney, made a good impression in preseason games and carried this forward by not only scoring a try on his debut but giving the best performance in the Hawks’ line-up. They will also be without Connor Morrison who has also impressed.
But on the positive side, Jake Albon is back in the second row after impressing last season before injury ruled him out for a number of games. There is also additional cover at lock with Charlie Davey, making his return.
Also on the bench, making a return after being away for the second half of last season, is Stuart Philpott as hooker/prop.
Davies says Chinnor will be another difficult game but his players will be going on to the field believing they can win.
He said: “Chinnor will go in as firm favourites after their win last weekend but also because they have invested heavily in their squad and they have a number of very experienced players.
“If will be a difficult task and if we get the win we will have done exceptionally well. We want to be competitive and we want to win games and we are capable of doing that.”
Chinnor were founded in 1963 and fixtures between the two clubs commenced with those at first team level restricted to Oxford Cup games for a number of seasons.
When the Hawks advanced to National League status they were restricted in their choice of players with experience at that level and saw victories were limited.
But once the clubs were playing each other in the National League the Hawks had the better record and it was not until December 2015 that Chinnor claimed a victory.
It is also appropriate that Chinnor should be the visitors for the opening of the new clubhouse as they, like the Hawks, have just refurbished their clubhouse as part of a development programme.
Henley Squad v Chinnor: 1 Brad Cook, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Ziana Mountout-Alexis, 4 Dave Clements (captain), 5 Jake Albon, 6 George Lane, 7 Tom Hall, 8 Julian Watkins. 9 George Jackson, 10 Joe Butler, 11 Dyneal Fessal, 12 Liam O’Neill, 13 Louis Flynn, 15 James Comben, 16 Zaki Chamnaoui, 17 Stuart Philpott, 18 Charlie Davey, 19 Tom Haynes and 20 Simon Perry.