Saturday, 28 November 2020

Quest to secure promotion

HENLEY HAWKS captain Tom Allen has set his side the challenge of going unbeaten for the rest of the season

HENLEY HAWKS captain Tom Allen has set his side the challenge of going unbeaten for the rest of the season as they prepare to enter the final furlong of the promotion race.

The Hawks are currently second in National League 2 South with nine games remaining.

They will welcome league leaders Worthing and third placed Redruth to Dry Leas and must visit fourth placed Hartpury College, who were early season favourites, before the end of the campaign.

Allen, 29, said: “We don’t want to lose a game from here to the end of the season and I absolutely believe we can do it.

“If we win our games we will finish top and get promoted. We have a strong squad with people coming back from injuries and that will only serve us in a positive way.

“The good thing we’ve got is we have both Worthing and Redruth coming to play us soon. We want to finally put our marker down for next season and get promotion.”

Disappointing defeats in recent weeks to Dings Crusaders and Launceston have knocked the Hawks off top spot where they have been for most of the season.

The side has since recovered to record away wins over Southend and Bournemouth and Allen believes the ball is still in their court.

He said: “Things are going very well again. We have regrouped after the last couple of disappointments and we’re back on track.

“Those games are gone now and we can learn from those losses and kick on for the rest of the season.

“We have a game in hand over Worthing and they still have to come here so the pressure is still on them.”

Henley have three games to play before they entertain Worthing, who lead by eight points having played an extra game, in a match that could go a long way to deciding the title. Allen insists his teammates will be concentrating on the first three games but admits he is excited by the prospect of the fixture against the West Sussex outfit on March 23.

He said: “We should expect maximum points from those three games. We don’t look too much further than our next game. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, that’s the one we have to focus on.

“Obviously the Worthing game is the biggest game of our season, especially being at Dry Leas. We just hope the people of Henley will come out to support us.”

Last time the teams came head-to-head Worthing ran out 49-5 winners at the Roundstone Lane ground in November to inflict the Hawks’ first defeat of the campaign. During the game, the home side’s fullback and vice captain broke his ankle in two places and both teams were stuck in the changing rooms for half an hour while he was treated on the pitch. Allen said: “It was very much one of those bad days at the office. Sometimes in rugby an injury can galvanise a team and very quickly swing one way or the other.

“We had been on top before the break but when it kicked back off we had a yellow card and they scored a try soon after. We didn’t recover. This game will be different because it’s at our place. I rate our chances very highly and it will be an excellent game. We owe them one from the defeat at their place, which wasn’t how we wanted it to go.”

Allen admitted the weather had played a part in the Hawks’ recent downturn in form as it had disrupted their rhythm and sapped much of the energy built up in their early season free-scoring run.

He said: “The weather has been very cruel and it knocked us off a bit. It just meant we struggled to run the ball and struggled to play like we want to.

“Generally we had to change the game plan but now we can pick back up with how we started.

“If you look at the last game against Bournemouth, spring was in the air and there was a spring in our step with the rugby too.

“We’re back to playing on hard pitches and that helps us play the way we want to.”

The fullback, who said he was happy with his own form but wanted to score more tries, praised winger Xavier Andre for his “potent finishing” that has seen him rack up a dozen tries in his second campaign.

Allen also pointed to the arrival of London Wasps loan stars Will Robinson, a fly half, and scrum half Jonah Holmes as providing a significant boost to the squad.

He said: “They’ve added a new dynamic and a different level to our game. It keeps players on their toes playing with new people and they react to what they do.”

Should Henley finish second, they will face the runners up of National Division 2 North in a promotion play off tie that will be played at the home of the team with the most points.

It is worth noting that the southern team has won the play off for the past five seasons and Allen believes his side will be ready for a winner-takes-all encounter should they miss out on top spot.

He said: “There have been a few different leaders in that league so we don’t know who our likely opponents would be but hopefully we will have done enough to gain home advantage.

“Either way, we will be absolutely ready for a play-off game and confident we can win it whoever we play.”

The Hawks are without a match tomorrow (Saturday), but resume league action on March 2 when basement side Barking visit Dry Leas.

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