Comben and Helliwell make return for Hartpury clash
HENLEY HAWKS travel to third-placed Hartpury College tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm) buoyed by their victory against Loughborough
HENLEY HAWKS travel to third-placed Hartpury College tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm) buoyed by their victory against Loughborough Students last weekend but having to make several changes to their side.
Basil Strang, last week’s man-of-the-match and scorer of two tries for the Hawks, is unavailable due to rare work commitments. He will be replaced by James Comben, who proved his fitness playing for the Bulls against London Scottish last week after being sidelined for six weeks. Comben will be partnered at half-back by James Helliwell who is again fully fit after playing only one half of rugby in the last five weeks. Connor Murphy provides cover on the bench.
There are also changes on the front row where Dave Manning and Curtis Langdon start in place of Henry Sandys and Tom Emery.
The Hawks have now established strength in depth in the back row as Julian Watkins has settled in at number eight having recovered from injury suffered in the warm-up for the season. A former captain of University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology, the alma mater of a number of Hawks’ players and coaches, he will be flanked again this week by Jack Willis, the Wasps Academy player at number six and Rob Bell, the scorer of six tries since he joined the club at the end of November at number seven.
Last weekend Gloucester side Hartpury College defeated Cinderford 38-7 to go level on points with Blackheath.
Hartpury, who were newly promoted the season before last, finished well in fifth position recording 19 victories after a sluggish start last time around.
This on the face of it is a second successive opposition for the Hawks against a student side as Hartpury College is the full name of their club. However although a university establishment, facilities for training purposes are used by Premier League side Gloucester and Hartpury are their academy side.
The sponsorship relationship is recognised on the shirts worn by Gloucester for all their league and cup games. As with the Hawks’ relationships with London Irish and Wasps they have dual registered players for National 1 games but the relationship is inevitably much closer.
The Hawks’ 46-0 home defeat by Hartpury in mid October was the start of a run of seven successive defeats after they had secured three victories and a draw putting them in mid-table position.
Fullback Gareth Thompson is their leading kicker and to date has scored 160 points. Thompson was man-of-the-match against the Hawks in October but Hartpury are an all round scoring side.
The Henley Hawks line-up for tomorrow’s clash is as follows: 15 James Davies, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Liam O’Neill, 12 Tom Allen, 11 Jack Randall, 10 James Comben, 9 James Helliwell, 1 Billy Moss, 2 Curtis Langdon, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Charlie Davey, 6 Jack Willis, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Julian Watkins. Replacements: 16 Henry Sandys, 17 Tom Emery, 18 Jake Albon, 19 Simon Perry, 20 Connor Murphy.
Henley Bulls are back in action tomorrow when they travel to Grove for their Oxfordshire Cup clash.
The Bulls line-up will be from Harry Jackson, Luke Watts, Cecil MacCarthy, Matt Hopkins, Tom Bartlett, Charlie Nixon, Iwan Davies, Scott White, Paul Bowen, Archie McGowan, Fred Taylor, Toby Howe, Ben Palmer, Lloyd Owen, Louis Flynn, Martin Nutt, Andrew Bailey, Jack Wiggins, Daley Aremu, Ross Lewis.
Elsewhere tomorrow Henley Bears entertain Marlow 3th. Henley Vikings are without a match. On Sunday Henley Hawks Women entertain Wasps Ladies in a cup match at Dry Leas (kick-off 2pm).