HENLEY HAWKS start the second half of the season at Dry Leas against Darlington Mowden Park tomorrow (Saturday)
HENLEY HAWKS start the second half of the season at Dry Leas against Darlington Mowden Park tomorrow (Saturday) who are visitors for the first time having been promoted from Division 2 (North) in 2013/14, kick-off 3pm.
The two clubs met at the palatial Mowden Park ground at the beginning of September when the Hawks gained a narrow 30-28 victory thanks to a dominant display by their forwards in the first half when they led 20-0 at half-time.
The home team very nearly turned the game round in the second half when with possession their backs showed good combination with swift handling and the Hawks were thankful for a penalty by James Comben late in the game to hang on to an important and a rather unexpected away victory.
This then is the first return game of the season. The Hawks go into the game buoyed by an encouraging 27-13 victory over Cinderford last Saturday which broke a run of seven successive defeats and importantly was against a side also struggling at the bottom of the league.
The availability of players who have been injured or playing elsewhere in recent weeks such as Jake Albon and Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas strengthened the pack although Albon immediately suffered a repeat of his back injury and will probably be unable to play again for some time.
However, the introduction of two new backs, fly-half Ben Palmer and Basil Stranger gave the outsiders much more impetus and the result was two good tries by wing Jake Randall and an impressive one by Liam O’Neill who certainly looked more comfortable in the centre than on the wing.
The kicking by Palmer and Strang also gave the backs the ability to make metres to turn defence into attack. Strang, an Oxford Blue in 2014, is probably more comfortable in the centre where his powerful running will be of benefit.
The Darlington side shows some changes from the previous game at the beginning of the season and they will also come to Dry Leas full of confidence following their most impressive victory to date, 51-11, at home over Blaydon as they continue a run of six successive victories. They scored eight tries in the process with newcomer Jake Henry on the wing leading the way with a hat-trick.
The Hawks will be striving to carry on where they left off against Cinderford to climb up the league table.
The Henley Hawks line-up for the match is as follows: 15 Tom Allen, 14 Basil Strang, 13 Xavier Andre, 12 Liam O’Neill, 11 Jake Randall, 10 Ben Palmer, 9 Connor Murphy, 1 Dave Manning, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Billy Moss, 4 Dave Clements (capt), 5 Charlie Davey, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Oscar Hirskyj-Douglas. Replacements: Henry Sandys, Will Woodward, Curtis Langdon, Fred Pierrepoint, Jack Bradford, Simon Perry.