After a difficult night at Bedford last Friday, which resulted in a 43-14 Championship Cup defeat, things get no easier for Hartpury this weekend as they make the long trip south-west to play the Cornish Pirates, again in the Cup.
The Bedford result means that it is two defeats from two for the Red & Blacks in this new format. With four more group games to play between now and Christmas, nothing less than a win at the Mennaye Field will be needed to extend Hartpury’s interest in the competition.
Whilst Hartpury would almost certainly be happy to swap any sort of Cup success for a couple of league wins, it would still be a good time to reverse a sequence of defeats that now stretches back to Week 5 of the Championship season.
However, there are easier places to go looking for an elusive ‘W’ than the home of the Pirates. Despite a slight dip in results since their ultra-strong opening to the season, Pirates have tasted defeat just once on home soil in the current campaign – a 29-30 loss to Bedford, in the league, five weeks ago.
Added to which, Hartpury’s record versus the Cornishmen – since promotion to the Championship in 2017 – is not something over which the coaching staff will care to linger.
The new Cup has provided mixed outcomes for the Pirates so far, with an opening home win over Bedford being followed up by an emphatic 64-17 reversal at the hands of London Irish last time out.
Despite that most recent result, Hartpury’s Jonny Goodridge – steering the ship in partnership with senior player, Dan Murphy, throughout the Cup campaign – has no doubt about the size of the task facing his men this weekend.
“Sunday will be a massive challenge, down in Penzance, against a team who will be looking for huge improvement after their London Irish defeat,” he said.
“As we know, they have a very physical pack, an excellent kicking game and strong finishers out wide.”
The recent Cup games have seen starts in the Pirates line-up for full-back Maliq Holden (pictured, left), who graduated last summer from Hartpury after winning – and scoring – in the past two BUCS Super Rugby play off finals at Twickenham and making his Championship debut for Hartpury RFC last season.
Alongside him in both fixtures has been another old boy, Alex O’Meara (pictured, right), who moved to Pirates after finishing his degree at Hartpury in 2015, during which time he played in both BUCS and National League rugby for the Red & Blacks.
Absent in recent weeks has been another Hartpury alumni, Matt Evans, who is currently with Canada in their repechage (play-offs) for the final 2019 Rugby World Cup spot.
Hartpury come into the game with better availability than in the previous game at Bedford as Tom Pashley and Connor Edwards are both in contention, as is lock forward Joe Quinn who has been absent since late September due to injury.
“The Blues match provided another good opportunity to rotate the squad and give players’ game time,” said Goodridge.
“Tom Everard got his first RFC outing since last season, while Angus Southon also got another shot at this level. There were also ‘RFC’ debuts for BUCS players, Harry Holland and Alex Forrester.”
“We had a frustrating first half as we didn’t have any real opportunities to attack,” he said.
“However, there was an encouraging final 20 minutes where we managed to dominate possession and territory and create scoring opportunities.”
“Training this week has been full of energy, with a real intent to play with tempo and accuracy. We have focused a lot on our attack, as we have had few opportunities in last two weeks to move the ball.”
The match at the Pirates is on Sunday, 25th November, and is a 2.30pm kick off.