The Vikings are at home this Saturday for the first time in 2024, fifth placed Henley the visitors. Buoyed by their performance at Dorking last week where they scored five tries, they will be looking to further improve. “We’ve improved significantly recently and Dorking was a major step forward but we need to compete for the full 80 minutes which will require us upping our game again,” commented Niall Lear. His starting fifteen is likely to show three changes, one positional. Jobe Brooks is unavailable so Billy Tait will move into the back row with James Douglas coming into the second row, whilst Tawanda Kandenwa will probably start instead of Wes McGuire. Kurt Ehret and Pieter de Lange could be amongst the replacements.
Henley have lost just four of their fifteen matches, two of those defeats, Bury and Old Albanian, coming in their last five. Niall describes them as a “well drilled side who will provide us with another very stern test.” Like all quality teams they can win games even when they are not at their best. Fly half Max Titchener – “best in the League” – is adept at controlling matches and is unerringly accurate with his kicking from hand and tee: he’s the league’s fifth highest points scorer with 131, none from tries. Their leading try scorers are both hookers, Istok Totic with ten and Tom Emery five, so the catch and drive looks to be potent weapon. Sam Lunnon, part of a heavyweight back row, has also got five, whilst Adam Hakimian looked a classy centre when the teams met in September.
That game ended 41 – 14, Henley taking the match away from their visitors with three tries in fifteen minutes straight after half time. Vikings’ try scorers were Ethan Holmwood (who hopes to return from injury next month) and Kandenwa. It was one apiece in 2022 – 23, the Vikings winning the Scottow encounter in September 29 – 23, their first victory of the season, but the Oxfordshire side victorious 42 – 40 in a 12 try thriller at Henley in March which included tries for Holmwood and Dan Smith.