HENLEY HAWKS kick off the New Year with a home clash at home to local rivals Redingensians tomorrow (kick-off 3pm) in Division 2 South.
The Sonning-based side have now settled at the most senior level in their history with eight wins and 10 bonus points and currently stand seventh in the league, four places above the Hawks.
The clubs met at their Old Bath Road ground in the third game of the season in which a close match resulted in a narrow 26-22 victory for the Hawks. Neither side were at full strength on that occasion.
Since then the Rams, as they are known, have been the more consistent side and were comfortable winners against London Irish Wild Geese, 39-24, in their last game at home prior to Christmas. In contrast the Hawks scraped home against London Irish Wild Geese a week before with a last minute try, 25-24.
The Hawks form decidedly improved before the break having collected two bonus points on the road at Barnstaple and in a stirring performance at Chinnor, the then league leaders, where they were worthy of a 29-29 draw having led by five points on the final whistle. However this result was enough to knock Chinnor off the top of the league table, a position they had held from the start of the season.
The Hawks have been able to strengthen their line-up for tomorrow’s game with a number of players who were not available for recent games having recovered from injury or demands to play elsewhere. This does not apply to the backs. At fullback, Tom Parton, at present released from playing commitments with London Irish, will start at fullback as Alan Awcock suffered an injury in the Chinnor match. George Jackson takes over at scrum-half from James Stevenson-Wright who moves to the replacements bench.
As far as the forwards are concerned the Hawks welcome the return of Dave Manning who has been on military duties for all games to date.
Other changes see a revamped back row with David Hyde, injured for the Chinnor match, now fit to start at number eight with Tom Hall moving to his familiar position at number six. The Hawks also welcome back Rob Bell who comes in at number seven.
There is a strong bench as far as the forwards are concerned with tight-head prop Brad Cook returning after injury. James Hadfield, who has done yeoman service in recent weeks, continues at loose head.
As far as the visitors are concerned a number of their selected team is well known to followers of the Hawks amongst them being Robbie Stapley who now captains the side.
The Henley Hawks line-up for the match is as follows: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Xavier Andre, 13 Connor Hayhow, 12 Liam O’Neill, 11 Simon Perry, 10 Joe Butler, 9 George Jackson, 1 Jim Hadfield, 2 Tom Emery, 3 Dave Manning, 4 Dave Clements, 5 Jake Albon, 6 Tom Hall, 7 Rob Bell, 8 Dave Hyde. Replacements: 16 Brad Cook, 17 Stuart Philpott, 18 Connor Morrison, 19 Marcus Lowe, 20 James Stevenson-Wright.
Elsewhere tomorrow Henley Bulls entertain Blackheath 2nds while Henley Bears host Redingensinas 5ths. Henley Vikings are without a fixture.