After the Easter weekend break, it is back to business for Hartpury RFC as National League rugby returns this Saturday.
This will be Hartpury’s last appearance in Gloucestershire for the 2016-17 season and a bonus-point win, against bottom club Macclesfield, would mean a magnificent home record for the campaign – Played 15, Won 15, Bonus Points 15.
That result would leave them going into their final fixture, at Blackheath, still with the chance of an unbeaten season – something never before achieved at this level of league rugby.
On paper, at least, the clash against the already-relegated Cheshire side might appear to be something of a foregone conclusion. However, Director of Rugby John Barnes is quick to play down any suggestion that his team will take anything for granted.
“You could argue that neither side have got anything to play for in terms of points, but that would be wrong,” he said. “We’re obviously very focused on achieving an unbeaten season and they’re going to be playing for a lot of pride.”
“Macclesfield have certainly shown, over the last few weeks, that their position at the bottom might be a bit misleading. They’ve beaten Blackheath, beaten Loughborough and really pushed Plymouth Albion, who are second in the table. They will come here with absolutely nothing to lose and looking to see if they can get a massive scalp in their last away game.”
Hartpury’s last run-out was at Moseley in the warm sunshine a fortnight ago, where a 32-14 win was the outcome. How did Barnes rate the performance that day?
“It was a decent result in the sense that we got another bonus point win, but I think we left a lot of points out there. Our attack, for one of the first times this season, let us down a little bit and our execution, particularly later in the game, was not as good as it has been. We identified 15 try scoring opportunities in the game that we didn’t take, which is a lot.”
“Having said that, Moseley are a very decent team and, despite having to cope with all of the injuries that they have had, they fought very hard and gave us a good challenge. In the end, it was another hurdle crossed as we look to stay unbeaten.”
There is no definitive team news at this stage but, with Gloucester Rugby engaged in an A-League play-off semi-final versus Wasps on Monday, there is likely to be some change in the dual-registered players available.
One man known to be returning is dangerous winger Jonas Mikalcius (pictured), after he missed the match at Moseley whilst on duty at the Melrose Sevens with Harlequins – a tournament that the London club won. He will be looking to add to the 30 league tries he has already collected this season, twelve more than any other player in the division. His tally includes a brace in the reverse fixture at Macclesfield, back in December, a match won 62-12 by Hartpury.