Hartpury go into Week Seven of the Greene King IPA Championship, lifted by an improved performance against highly-rated Ealing Trailfinders last weekend.
Despite eventually going down 25-32, collecting a potentially valuable bonus point along the way, there was plenty about the Hartpury display to suggest that one or two of their early season performances, notably the woeful defeat at Richmond, were not a true reflection of their potential.
Having fielded a much-changed team against Ealing, it was pleasing to see a lot of the new selections making a strong case for a longer run in the team, as Hartpury Director of Rugby, John Barnes, was happy to point out.
“The side we put out against Ealing produced a good reaction to our poor effort in the previous week,” he said.
“Ealing are a top side and we were pushing them hard in the final quarter. If the game had gone a little longer, we feel that we night have been good for more than a single point.”
“The new faces put in some good performances and both Tom Seabrook (pictured above) and James Dun were able to show that they are quite at home at this level. Jack Reeves and Charlie Powell are even younger than those two, so it’s great to know that we’ve got access to that sort of talent.”
“That display will enable us to take some confidence into the next three matches (before the start of the six-week Championship Cup window) and it’s going to be important for us to take some league points from those games.”
First up in that trio of fixtures are Nottingham and the East Midlands side have made a decent start to the season after changes in key personnel, on and off the field, since the end of the last campaign.
The Green and Whites currently sit in fifth spot, with three wins from six outings so far. In their last game they looked to be heading for a hiding at the hands of the Cornish Pirates, having shipped 36 points by the break, but a strong second half saw them close things up to 36-28 at the end, narrowly missing out on a losing bonus point.
Prior to that they won three in succession, with London Scottish, Yorkshire Carnegie and Doncaster Knights the victims.
“Nottingham away will be a big challenge,” said Barnes.
“They are side that like to run the ball and play expansive rugby. They are in good form and will feel that they can take on anybody at home.”
The corresponding fixture last season was an entertaining affair, as Nottingham set off at a cracking pace to leave their visitors reeling at 23-0 down. However, Luke Eves crossed for the Red & Blacks before the break and Hartpury had the better of the second half, before finally going down 31-28 for two bonus points.
In the home fixture, Hartpury achieved their most convincing win of the season, collecting five tries in a 39-20 victory, as Nottingham’s season started to tail off after a good start.
Hartpury will be without experienced back row forward Iain Grieve, injured last Saturday, but otherwise will be looking to stick with the majority of the players who stood up well against Ealing. The squad announcement will be made on Friday and the match itself kicks off at 3pm on Sunday, at Lady Bay.