With three home games remaining, Hartpury go into tonight’s fixture with Nottingham knowing that a positive result would be hugely beneficial to their chances of avoiding a return to National League 1.
Recent form has been good, although the performances in the last three games have not always resulted in the points that the club so urgently seek.
A good example was last week’s trip to second-placed Ealing Trailfinders.
“It was another strong performance,” said Director of Rugby, John Barnes.
“We were disappointed not to get the win from 14-0 up with 25 minutes to go,” he said. “Some discipline errors, and a few calls that went against us, gave them a way back into the game and they took advantage with three close range tries.
“Another poor penalty then enabled them a long-range kick to take the losing bonus point away from us. After such a good effort, it was hard to take nothing from the game.”
Last week’s match featured an exciting performance from Wasps-bound scrum-half, Ben Vellacott (pictured). Hartpury will be buoyed by the knowledge that he is available to them again this week and would love to see a repeat of his two tries from Ealing.
Nottingham’s season has been similar to last, with a strong start being undermined by more indifferent form in mid-season. However, they have won their last two games, on the road at Doncaster Knights followed by a good result at home to the Cornish Pirates.
“Nottingham will represent a different challenge to Ealing,” said Barnes.
“They are not as physical and direct as a lot of Championship clubs, but they play with a lot more width and tempo. We’re looking forward to another Friday night game.”
Hartpury supporters will remember that Hartpury broke a long sequence of losses with a good home win against Richmond under the “Friday Night Lights” three weeks ago and will be hoping for more of the same tonight.
In last year’s corresponding fixture, the Red & Blacks produced their biggest Championship win of the season, scoring five tries as they beat Nottingham 39-20.
Hartpury have already named their side for tonight’s game, with Bristol’s powerful young winger, Aaron Chapman, making his club debut in place of the injured Jake Henry.
Chapman was due to appear for Hartpury last season, but was injured at an England U-20 training camp, thereby missing his opportunity.
The match will also see starts for long-term injury absentees, Luke Eves and Rob Langley. Langley will be appearing against his former club.