Hartpury RFC, with Championship survival assured by courtesy of a 43-22 home win over London Scottish last Saturday, travel to Yorkshire Carnegie for their final fixture of the season with Director of Rugby, John Barnes (pictured), insisting that they will not be taking their foot off the pedal.
The Leeds-based club, formerly known as the Leeds Tykes, have a Premiership past and had been committed to seeking a return to the top flight until the recent revelation that, due to financial constraints, the club will become semi-professional from next season.
Unsurprisingly, this is likely to lead to an exodus of both players and coaching staff over the summer, meaning that Saturday’s game will not only be their last – for the foreseeable future – as a full-time professional club but also the last in which the current squad are likely to appear as a unit.
It was revealed this week, for example, that Carnegie’s Director of Rugby, Chris Stirling, will be moving to the Cornish Pirates in the off-season.
Quite what effect this will have on the Yorkshiremen is, as yet, an unknown and Barnes is therefore entirely right to keep his own squad fully focused on Saturday’s outcome. Yorkshire were defeated in their last outing, although as this was a tough trip to the Pirates and the result was close, there is nothing to suggest that the current situation is affecting performances.
Otherwise, their results over the past few months have been good, including a stand-out win over now-promoted London Irish back in March.
“Yorkshire are a team in good form,” said Barnes.
“Their transition to part-time contracts means that there will be a number of individuals looking to put in strong performances and playing for possible opportunities elsewhere.”
“We will go up there with the same attitude that we have had all season. We’ll be looking to get those four tries and see where that takes us.”
Hartpury did open the current campaign with an encouraging 16-5 home win over Carnegie, as the Yorkshiremen endured a worrying start to the season before a winter recruitment drive in the southern hemisphere led to a strengthened squad and a dramatic improvement in results.
Last season’s visit to Headingley was a frustrating one for the Red & Blacks, who led until the latter stages of the game before being over-hauled by a late Steve McColl try.
Hartpury will go in to this game on the back of five wins from their past seven fixtures and Barnes is pleased with both their form and, of course, their escape from the threat of relegation.
“We were happy with the overall performance versus London Scottish and to be able to go into the final game without the danger of slipping back into the National League is clearly a relief,” he said.
“The Hartpury alumni that we’ve been able to bring into the squad over the past several weeks have really added value, in terms of their ability, and have also given everything for the shirt.”
“They clearly recognise the part that Hartpury has played in their career development and that has shone through in their performances.”
“It’s disappointing that a club like Richmond ended up getting relegated, but I’m sure that they will bounce back. They themselves appear likely to have a number of ex-Hartpury students in their squad for next season, so we will be following their progress – as we do with all of our alumni.”
“There are plenty of clubs in the upper echelons of club rugby with Hartpury old boys in their playing resources and we will continue to produce players for all levels of the game.”