Henley Hawks vs Esher – Saturday, February 17th, kick-off 3pm

By Alistair Beynon 

Henley Hawks welcome National 2 East table toppers Esher RFC to Dry Leas this coming Saturday for a vital clash in terms of their season as a whole.

Following last weekend’s disappointing 35-26 defeat at the hands of Tonbridge Juddians, the Hawks will be desperate to turn things around against a side who have only lost twice all season, and are currently on a remarkable 11-game winning streak. Despite being up 26-20 midway through the second half, Luke Allen’s men will be frustrated to not have come away with at least a losing bonus point for their efforts against a strong TJ’s side. As it is, Henley slip to sixth place in the league table and will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes against the leagues strongest side. Esher arrive at Dry Leas on the back of a resounding 60-15 triumph over fourth placed Bury St. Edmunds, so Henley will know full well the challenge that awaits them.

Back in October, Esher pulled away from Henley in the last quarter to register a 46-25 victory at Molesey Road, a scoreline that flattered the home side but showed how clinical they could be given half a chance. The Hawks will need to be at their very best if they are to avenge that defeat, with their discipline in particular at times this season not at the level it needs to be.

In terms of team selection, Max Titchener suffered a broken finger in the loss against TJ’s and is replaced by Jordan Oatley at fly half. Similarly, in-form scrum half Leo Webb is out with Will Crow coming back into the starting XV. Crow put in a man-of-the-match performance against Sevenoaks a few weeks ago and Hawks supporters will be hoping for a similar performance from the veteran scrum half this weekend. Otherwise, the backline is unchanged from the TJ’s game.

In the pack, Sam Lunnon is back in the side after being unavailable against TJ’s. He starts at blindside flanker with Will Benning switching to Number 8 in place of Zack Taylor.

Henley Hawks provisional side to take on Esher is as follows;

1. Kadeem Collins, 2. Istok Totic, 3. Rory Mason, 4. Marcus Lowe, 5. Alex Hayton, 6. Sam Lunnon, 7. Tom Vooght ©, 8. Will Benning, 9. Will Crow, 10. Jordan Oatley, 11. Lailand Gordon, 12. Adam Hakimian, 13. Ryan Crowley, 14. George Wood, 15. Toby Evans

Replacements: 16. Tom Emery, 17. Louis Bailey, 18. Scott White, 19. Guy Rawsthorn, 20. Joe Pattison

Elsewhere on Saturday, Henley 2’s face Esher 2’s in a double-header, kick-off on the riverside pitches is 2.30pm. The Vikings are also at home in a big local derby against Reading 2’s, kick-off is also 2.30pm. On Sunday, Henley Hawks Women are back in Championship South action as they travel down the M4 to face Bath in what promises to be another fascinating contest, kick-off again is 2.30pm.