HENLEY HAWKS’ director of rugby Nigel Dudding hailed his side’s team ethic after they wrapped up
HENLEY HAWKS’ director of rugby Nigel Dudding hailed his side’s team ethic after they wrapped up the National League 2 South title with a record three games to spare.
Hawks, who have topped the table since September, beat Shelford 66-17 last Saturday to confirm their promotion as champions and Dudding says the team were “determined” to win the league from the first game of the season.
They have spent much of the season battling for top spot with Dorking, who they face at home on the final day of the season, but pulled away as their rivals faltered.
Dudding said: “It’s a league record to do it with three games to spare and that’s a huge bonus for us. We thought it might go down to the final game but Dorking have fallen away and we’ve been able to come in and be very consistent.
“They are a very close-knit group who work very hard for each other. We had an exceptional game plan put in place by Pete Davies, Ed Waldron and the other coaches and the players responded to that.
“They got themselves into a good position and the team ethos is one of their strengths, they were determined to do this from day one and that’s why we’ve been top for 27 weeks.” Hawks ran in 12 tries against Shelford in a comfortable win and Dudding says it was a relief after watching the side secure several dramatic late victories earlier in the season.
He said: “It was an interesting game, Shelford have had a difficult season and were effectively relegated before the game. We made sure we prepared for the game but it turned out to be a bit easier than we anticipated.
“There were celebrations in the changing room afterwards but in some ways it was a bit of an anticlimax.
“There’s been some very tight games this year which could have gone against us but the resilience of the team showed. We won games when perhaps weren’t playing well, which is the sign of a good team.” Dudding says the team won’t let up in their final three games but the whole squad will be given a chance to perform before the end of the season. He also paid tribute to the club’s coaching and fitness set-up for keeping the squad injury-free for the title run-in.
Dudding said: “We have played a lot of guys already this season and rotated the squad which is probably one of the secrets to our success.
“I think a big difference this season is that we have improved the strength and conditioning massively and we also have a superb medical set-up.
“We will be going out to win these last three games, that’s always our approach.”
Hawks were relegated from National League 1 last season following a final-day draw at Tynedale but Dudding is confident that they can stay up next term. He is also optimistic that most of the players who secured promotion this year will still be at the club when the league starts in September.
He said: “Last time we were in that league we got relegated and we have learnt lessons from that. I believe we can sustain the team, we will of course be adding to the squad but we want to keep as many of the players as possible.
“They’ve done us proud this season and deserve to be rewarded for that.”
The Hawks are next in action a week on Saturday when they travel to Dings Crusaders, who they beat 58-10 in December’s reverse fixture.