After 21 games unbeaten there aren’t many sides in National League One who think they can beat Hartpury, but Director of Rugby John Barnes insists that Ampthill will believe they’re one of the few this weekend.
Hartpury travel to the second-placed side on Saturday in search of their 22nd consecutive win this season looking to stretch their advantage at the summit of the league – which currently stands at 28 points.
Barnes said: “Ampthill will truly believe they can beat us – especially with home advantage. There aren’t that many teams in the league at the moment that will believe they can beat us but Ampthill are certainly one of them.
“This is a massive game for us and we’re under no illusions as to how difficult this weekend is going to be, especially with them having beaten us there last season and the fact they’re on the back of a good run of form in the league.”
Hartpury have recently negotiated a couple of tricky games with relegation-threatened sides Hull Ioanians and more recently Blaydon but this week will face an entirely different prospect in what Barnes sees as one of the league’s best sides.
“This trip will be up there for us this season in terms of difficulty with the likes of Coventry and Plymouth away. They’ll believe they can win especially after beating Blackheath and Mosely away in the last couple of weeks – there’s no doubting they’re a very good side.
“They’re another physical side with some experienced islanders in the pack and they’ve got a very strong set piece and kicking game as well as being strong all-round, that’s why they’re second in the league. It’s only their second season in the league and they’ve done incredibly well. We can’t take anything for granted.”
Despite Hartpury’s 49-14 home victory over their Bedfordshire rivals back in October, Barnes and the team are well aware that their opponents are a completely different prospect on home soil.
“We’ve been there a couple of times before with varying results. It’s a big pitch and a long walk from the changing rooms so it’s a little different to most setups in the league.
“For us it’s another week and another challenge. We rarely change what we do in preparation for games and it’s obviously been successful so far so we’ll continue to just approach the game our way.”
With the potential to move 33 points clear of Ampthill with a bonus point victory Barnes looks to have a similar squad to pick from that has been available to him for the last two weeks with no new fresh injury concerns.