Hartpury worked hard in the sun on their pre-season visit to Aviva Premiership side Worcester Warriors and, despite a few leaked tries as the second half drew on, there was plenty for the coaches to be happy about in the performance.
Both sides came to the game with big squads, the intention being to provide match practice for as many players as possible. The conditions were fine and the 3G surface was, of course, nothing unusual for either team.
Hartpury started with what looked like being close to a ‘first XV’, a selection that saw Dan Murphy, Rupert Harden, BJ Edwards, Darrel Dyer and Ed Sheldon make their first appearances in the Red & Black, whilst returning former player Rob Langley also featured.
The top flight outfit began the game stronger and were ahead very early, although Hartpury were far from being outclassed.
The set piece was working well, with Murphy and Harden providing both strength and experience at scrum-time while the line-out was its usual reliable self. A solid effort from the front five was complemented by a hard-working back row in which Dyer promises to be an excellent acquisition from former National 1 rivals, Coventry.
Hartpury built pressure as the half progressed and got their reward just before the half hour when, after a series of powerful drives followed by a strong Steve Leonard effort, lively scrum-half Harry Cochrane spread the ball wide for winger Sheldon to cross in the corner.
They were close again on the stroke of half time, the forwards working the ball close to the Warriors line before the impressive Mat Gilbert was stopped inches short.
The interval saw a raft of changes for both teams, including an entirely new XV for the hosts, and it was Hartpury who opened the second half scoring. Profiting from some mis-handling in the Worcester midfield, winger Elias Caven – returning to the club permanently after some loan appearances last season – had the pace to score from deep in his own half.
Perhaps as a result of the changes, Hartpury lost their way a little bit defensively in the third quarter and Warriors were able to manufacture a number of scores, although the much-changed visiting pack were still holding their own at the scrum.
Young scrum half Charlie Chapman (pictured) re-energised the Hartpury effort in the final quarter and a further period of pressure brought a try for another debutant, James Williams, who did enough in the second half to suggest that he and Jacob Perry will have a good tussle for the starting fly-half berth this season.
Overall, there were plenty of indicators that Hartpury will be a competitive presence in the Championship this season and they will look to refine their performance when Rosslyn Park visit the College next Saturday, 19th August. Kick off for that game will be the usual 2.30pm and entry is FREE.