Henley v 1stXV, Sat Jan 16, Match Preview
The 1stXV and the 1881s make the shortish journey around the M25 for a double header visit to Dry Leas this Saturday for ‘local derbies’ against Henley with both national 1 squads keen improve upon their 14-14 draw at Dillingham Park back in September while Henley’s 2ndXV will intend to reverse their narrow Zoo Shield loss on the same day.
Henley RFC was founded in August 1930 as Old Henleiensians (old boys of Henley Grammar School). After a break during the war years it was re-founded in 1954 and changed its name to Henley RFC in 1963 and has been based at Dry Leas, leased from the Town Council, ever since.
When leagues were started in 1987 Henley were placed in South West II. Henley have developed a working relationship with London Wasps, who use Dry Leas for their A-team matches, and also loan squad players to Henley for development.
Clive Woodward became the 1stXV coach in 1990 achieving two promotions before joining London Irish in 1992 having inspired a style of play which achieved two further promotions to level 3 by 1999, the year of their great cup run which saw them defeat then Premiership Bedford before losing narrowly at Gloucester.
The club remains centred in the community with a thriving mini & youth section and regularly fields 6 adult teams including a Women’s XV.
Henley’s beautifully appointed Dry Leas ground boasts one of the finest playing surfaces in the country, recognised as such by the many representative matches that are played there, such as the recent U21 World Cup. The ground is barely a stone’s throw from the river and reflects everything one might expect from the world famous regatta town of Henley–On–Thames.
Henley were promoted to National 1 as champions of National 2 South last season and, after a good start to their National 1 campaign suffered from an injury disrupted autumn. Recently there have been signs of a revival with the return of key players while they gave high flying Blackheath a scare last week leading 7-12 at half time before losing 23-12. This season they have a played 16, won 4, drawn 1 record and lie 14th in the table, 5pts below Blaydon and safety.
Their squad shows a number of changes this week, Dave Manning starts at tighthead with Henry Sandys rotating to the bench, scrum half Connor Murphy (recalled by London Irish) is replaced by Tom Bliss (on loan from Ealing) while Basil Strang comes in at fly half with Ben Palmer dropping to the bench. Tom West (prop) & Jack Willis (flanker) are training with the England U20 squad this week so Matt Payne & Julian Watkins come onto the bench where they are joined by Curtis Langdon.
Ampthill’s game against Cinderford last week saw a remarkable first quarter in which the hosts scored four tries and secured the bonus point without the visitors touching the ball other than at restarts! Understandably the intensity level dropped thereafter but a further three tries were added in recording a 47-14 victory.
The win saw the 1stXV climb to 5th place in National 1 with a played 16 won 10 record and a game in hand on those above.
In a remarkable change to recent tradition there are no changes to the starting XV this week while there are just two enforced changes to the replacements.
Prop Benjamin Wilkinson is promoted from the 1881s with Billy Walker also joining the England U20 squad while flanker Sydney Blackmore returns.