With three games of the season remaining, Hartpury RFC face another big challenge when they visit Birmingham Moseley, for the first time ever, on Saturday (3pm).
The game comes after a memorable week for the Gloucestershire outfit, in which yet another National One victory, against an equally attack-minded Loughborough Students, was preceded by that triumphant night at Twickenham in which the university squad collected the BUCS Super Rugby Championship trophy.
“The BUCS side has exceeded expectations from day one,” RFC Head Coach Mark Cornwell said. “We only lost two games all season, but probably went into the final as underdogs, given Exeter’s recent form and the margin by which they beat us last time we played.”
“What the BUCS team had in abundance was spirit, determination and a culture that was driven by the coaches, Sean Lynn and Chris Fortey, and also by the leaders in the group, such as Seb Negri, Luke Stratford and Jamie Forrester. They showed an attitude that I hadn’t seen in a BUCS side here for a few years and they got their reward.”
“The Championship promotion, aided by the success in the BUCS, has really generated incredible interest in Hartpury. We are planning for both squads, as far as next season is concerned, and the success this year is opening all sorts of doors. We’ve had contact from players, and their agents, who have played at a really good level who are now interested in coming here to study and continue their rugby development.”
The National League game against Loughborough, last Saturday, was an end-to-end try-fest, which ended up 6-5 in Hartpury’s favour. “We knew the threat that Loughborough would pose – they score a lot of points,” said Cornwell. “Add that to the way that we play, then the fact it was a high-scoring game didn’t come as a great surprise. We lacked concentration on a few occasions but we were generally two or three scores ahead for most of the game.”
The first encounter with Moseley, back in December, produced a decisive 64-5 home victory (pictured, Ben Vellacott in that game) but there are no thoughts that Saturday, against a side still sitting high in the table, will be anything other than a tough test.
“They are a big, strong side and they’ve obviously got Championship experience,” Cornwell said. “The season probably hasn’t gone quite as well as they would have wanted, but we’re certainly not taking them lightly. We’ll go there having done our analysis on them and knowing how they are likely to play – it’s all about our ability to step up on the day.”
Selection, as as is normal, will be made late in the week, although the unavailability of certain players due to A-League and international commitments does mean that choices in some positions will be less contentious than usual.
With the league title wrapped up, producing the perfect season is now the main motivation for the Red and Blacks. “It’s never been done before at this level and it would be a remarkable achievement. The team has stood up to every challenge that has been thrown at them this season and we know that Saturday, against Birmingham Moseley, is going to be one of the biggest.”