Hartpury got another extremely useful run-out last night, against a very competitive Cinderford.
The game was played in three 30-minute periods and, as is normal on these occasions, both clubs used the opportunity to provide game-time for a number of squad players. Cinderford have recruited heavily from Hartpury in the past two seasons and, with the home team also featuring a number of current Hartpury students, this was good opportunity to check on a number of players.
Neither side made the best of starts, with Hartpury, in particular, looking ragged early on as they gave up a stream of penalties and free kicks. However, they had the defensive nous to keep their hosts at bay and, after 20 minutes, were able to take the lead from a driven lineout.
There was an embarrassing moment for the Hartpury forwards at the end of the first period, when a lack of concentration at a defensive scrum caused them to be pushed off their own ball before conceding a penalty try – no doubt to the immense satisfaction of the Cinderford pack.
The highlight of the opening spell was a lovely break up the middle of the park by lock forward Alex Craig. This was a welcome re-appearance by the dual-registered Gloucester man, who will surely be an important player for Hartpury this season.
The second period got better for Hartpury as they finally started to find some rhythm. Another drive saw Will Tanner touch down, but it was in open play that the overall improvement could be seen. The three-quarters came more into the game and the back three of Ben Foley, Elias Caven and Ed Sheldon all started to find space to run into.
The Cinderford defence was stretched from one touchline to the other and the breakthrough finally came when Foley’s half-break and pass gave Luke Eves the opportunity to hold off two tacklers to finish.
The final period was all Hartpury, as yellow cards to the home team made their task even harder. Replacement half-backs Harry Cochrane and Nathan Chamberlain upped the tempo significantly as the visitors started to run from everywhere.
Ed Sheldon was put into space by Jamie Forrester’s floated pass, but the winger still had plenty to do as he finished well from 15 metres and there was time for one more successful lineout drive before the whistle.
The result – and the performance in the final two periods – will give Hartpury confidence before next Friday’s Championship opener against Yorkshire Carnegie at the Gillman’s Ground (7.45pm). There will be a busy week ahead and, with most of the squad fit, plenty of decisions for the management to make regarding selection.
We would like to thank our friends at Cinderford, for both the game and their hospitality, and to wish them every success on their return to National 1 this season.