Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Hawks need to sharpen up for test against favourites

HENLEY HAWKS will have to be at their best to come away with a positive result when they face Chinnor away in National League Division 2 tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm).

Buoyed by the second-half fightback which saw them defeat rivals Redingensians last week, Henley’s players know they need to remain focused when they go up against the title favourites.

Indeed, the Hawks were 24-10 down at half-time having conceded three tries due to poor defensive work in the backs and careless passing and it took some choice words from head coach Pete Davies at half-time and strong performances from the forwards to score another 18 points without reply to win the game.

In contrast, Chinnor drew 24-24 at Clifton with a converted try in the last minute and will be itching to get their first win on the board in this derby match which is probably known as the Cotswold Challenge.

But the Hawks did surprise the home side last season when they drew the game at their place when they were close to promotion at the end of the campaign.

Davies says he was pleased with the way his players responded after going behind to Redingensians.

He said: “We didn’t defend well and we made some bad decisions. Our defending close to the rucks was poor and we needed to match up the different body heights of the players. If you don’t, it means that the tackles aren’t aggressive enough and you won’t build, instead you will be driven backwards.

“At half-time I put them straight on a few things and looked to tighten things up and they didn’t score a single point in the second half and the result ended up being quite comfortable.

“We have worked on our defending again in training and hopefully that area will be sorted. The players just need to learn how to react during in-game situations. By defending well, as in the second half, it means we can manopolise possession and our stats show that there were fewer penalties and we had more of the ball in play.

“Our attacking play was okay but it was nowhere near as good as it could be and that is something else that we will have worked on before that game at Chinnor but it was fantastic to get the win from the first game as Redingensians are a rock solid team.”

For the next game the Hawks will be without centre Aian Awcock due to work commitments but they welcome back Dave Clements, last season’s skipper, to the second row to bolster the forward line.

Davies believes that the best way of his side securing an upset would be if his players can keep the score-line as low as possible. He said: “Chinnor are an outstanding team and have recruited well. We want to frustrate them and keep the score as low as possible and hopefully we will be able to nick it.”

Davies has set his sights on winning two of the first four games of the season, which he says are the toughest fixtures his side will have. The next two fixtures are against Cinderford and Tonbridge Juddian.

He said: “We have four really tough games. Readingensians are always in the top half of the league, Cinderford are outright favourites, they’re everybody’s favourites to win it while Cinderford have aspirations of getting there and Tonbridge have thrown a lot of resources at their squad and had a big win at Bury St Edmunds last weekend. It doesn’t get any harder than that.”

Davies added: “If we can get through those fixtures with at least two wins we would have done fantastically well.”

The Hawks squad is as follows: 1 Ian Stock, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Jake Albon, 6 David Hyde, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Marcus Lowe, 9 Connor Murphy, 10 Gordon Jackson, 11 Jack Robinson, 12 Liam O’Neill, 13 Tom Gardner, 14 Harry Burn, 15 Joe Butler, 16 Brad Cook, 17 Matthew Hodson, 18 Michal Kruzycki, 19 Matthew Tibbatts and20 Adam Lubbock.

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