Hartpury RFC ended their pre-season programme with defeat to Championship side Ealing Trailfinders on a warm, humid day in West London.
As a contest, the game was over inside half an hour as the hosts’ precise back play shredded an occasionally sluggish Hartpury defence while the visitors, despite plenty of effort, struggled to exert any meaningful pressure.
As would be expected of a largely full-time squad, Ealing were fit, well-drilled and efficient in most aspects of their play and this platform allowed a pacy back three to exploit Hartpury’s early reticence. Four tries, all coming in wide areas, had Trailfinders 26-0 ahead with thirty minutes played.
Hartpury did manage to rouse themselves and a strong drive from the pack had them on the scoreboard, before the half was brought to a slightly premature close following a nasty clash of heads between forwards Mike Flook and Ben So’oialo-Chan.
The former Samoan Under-20 lock was taken to hospital, following treatment to a cut and swollen cheek in the clubhouse, but the early indications are that there is no fracture. One or two other players appeared to have picked up knocks in the half, hopefully none too serious.
With both teams making multiple changes at the break, the second half seemed to be following a similar pattern as the Ealing three-quarters ran in two more quick tries, but after that Hartpury eventually established a foothold in the game.
Sebastian Negri looked strong on the ball while the introduction of the returning Jonas Mikalcius gave Trailfinders more to think about defensively. With greater possession, Hartpury were able to get their more potent carriers, such as Jake Polledri (pictured) and James Stephenson into the game.
A try was the eventual reward when some good off-loading allowed the supporting Negri to finish well, under the posts. That was the end of the scoring, as the final quarter became a little more scrappy from both sides.
Despite the result – 38-12 was the final outcome – Hartpury will take some encouragement from the match. They did improve as the game went on, both with and without the ball, while new combinations will only benefit from game-time together. It is unlikely that their start next week will mirror today’s and Ealing – having survived in the Championship last season – are stronger than most teams that they will encounter in National 1.
The real business gets under way next Saturday, September 3rd, when Hartpury host Blackheath in their opening league fixture (2.30pm).
Starting XV: M Wilcox, D Atkins, S Leonard, L Eves, J Randall, J Perry, H Cochrane; M Flook, W Tanner, T Brockett, B So’oialo-Chan, J Quinn, J Polledri, M Gilbert, R Oakley
Bench: D Merrey, L Stratford, N Taylor, W Thompson, J Spencer, J Dancer, J Stephenson, S Negri, J Coombes, A Hastings, G Boulton, J Forrester, J Mikalcius