Jacob Perry showed nerves of steel as his late penalty kick salvaged a draw for Hartpury, in a game they looked to have wrapped up by half time.
Not for the first time in this young season, Hartpury had built a first half advantage only to see it undermined after the break. Hartpury have led in every fixture so far, with just the one win to show for their efforts, and Carnegie’s second half revival on Saturday was a reminder of the lessons that the Gloucestershire outfit still need to learn this season.
Played in perfect conditions in front of a healthy crowd, the match was a clash of styles as Hartpury’s running game came up against the abrasive pragmatism of the northerners. Alex Craig was available to replace the injured BJ Edwards, while Luke Stratford made his first start of the season at hooker due to Will Tanner’s absence.
In the backs, there were starts for James Williams at fly half and George Boulton at centre.
Carnegie started the better as Hartpury gave up a stream of early penalties. Two Alex Davies kicks quickly had them into a six-point lead, before the home team started to find their feet.
Once Hartpury started to click, it was the visitors’ turn to suffer. With 14 minutes on the clock, outstanding scrum half Harry Randall had the home team in front as his blind side break caught the Carnegie defence flat-footed (pictured above), leaving James Williams to land a successful conversion from out wide.
Minutes later the lead grew when the Hartpury pack drove from a lineout deep in the Carnegie 22 and hooker Luke Stratford stretched out to score.
Carnegie had the bigger pack but they were struggling to find answers as Hartpury went through the gears. The only surprise was that we had to wait almost 20 minutes before a flurry of tries brought the half to a close.
Mat Gilbert drove over after a series of pick and goes from the Red and Blacks before, in a sign of things to come, some weak Hartpury defence allowed Carnegie to break up field, centre Peter Lucock collecting an unconverted try as a result.
Before the break, however, Stratford (pictured below) bulldozed his way over for his second try of the match and the bonus point for his team.
With a 26-11 advantage and playing well, there was every reason to expect that Hartpury would go on to finish the job and there were encouraging signs early in the second period as a cross-field kick from Luke Eves almost worked well for Elias Caven on the wing.
Thereafter, though, the second half was mainly one-way traffic as Carnegie worked their way back into the game. Hartpury visibly wilted in the sun as the physicality of the Yorkshiremen began to tell.
Another Davies penalty narrowed the gap before, on the hour, an incisive run from Will Homer opened up the home defence and full back Chris Elder strolled through to score.
Hartpury could still have closed things down with another score, but they were almost architects of their own demise with 12 minutes to go when they coughed the ball up with the line in sight and Carnegie, off-loading confidently, went the length of the field to score through Louis Brown.
As the visitors continued to edge the physical battle, Davies kicked Carnegie in front with seven minutes remaining, before Perry’s final act tied the scores.
Hartpury: Wilcox, Caven, Boulton(Carpenter 59), Eves, Cochrane, Williams (Cons 14, 36, 39) (Perry, 52, Pen 79), Randall (Try 14); Murphy (Flook 72), Stratford (Tries 17, 39) (Crane 43), Harden (Heard 72), Craig (Quinn 39), Oakley, Langley, Gilbert (Try 35) (Dyer 56), Grieve.
Carnegie: Elder (Try 60), Watkins (Brown, 64, Try 68), Forsyth, Lucock (Try 38), H Davies (McColl, 75), A Davies (Con 61, Pens 6, 9, 48, 73), Homer; Thomas (Millar-Mills 49), Buckle (Mayhew, 49), Beech (Imiolek, 49), Whetton, Smith (Thraves 69), Myerscough, Bainbridge, Stedman. Unused Sub: Irvine
Referee: Michael Hudson