To say that Head Coach, Mark Cornwell, was disappointed by last week’s home defeat to the Cornish Pirates would be something of an understatement.
Hartpury went down to their visitors for the fourth time this season in a display that, in the first half in particular, did not meet the standards that the club have set themselves in recent years.
The damage was largely done in an opening period which saw Hartpury, playing into a strong wind, snatch an early lead but then leak five tries to be 33-5 behind at the break.
“We just didn’t show,” said the former Gloucester lock. “It was difficult to swallow. Very occasionally, as a coach, you can see that it happens but you can’t always put your finger on exactly why.
Let’s take absolutely nothing away from Pirates. They have a simple game plan and they are very good at executing it, but we just didn’t front up. It was hugely disappointing to perform like that and particularly in front of our own supporters.”
With safety now a mathematical certainty, Hartpury are playing for pride in the performance and to lay further foundations ahead of a second season in the Green King IPA Championship.
They face a further stern test this weekend with a trip to South-West London, to play a Richmond team with whom they have shared similar fortunes over the past few campaigns.
When Hartpury first arrived in National 2 South, back in the 2011-12 season, their opening fixture was at Richmond – a game which they narrowly lost – before winning the return against then-promoted opponents in the final match.
We next spent two seasons alongside Richmond in National League 1, twice winning away from home. The pick of those wins came in December 2015, when a brace from Ben Vellacott and another from Jonas Mikalcius (pictured) set Hartpury on their way to a 27-21 victory.
Conversely, Hartpury lost both of the encounters at the Gillman’s Ground. The second of those was a little under two years ago, when Richmond came out just on top (29-33) in a breath-taking game, to confirm their promotion to the Championship.
Richmond prevailed again, in the Championship, at the Gillman’s in November, leaving Hartpury to hope that their run of away victories continues on Saturday.
That will not be in any way straightforward, as Cornwell is ready to concede.
“It is another challenge. They beat us at home with the last kick of the game and we’ve had a number of very close games with them over the past few years. They are a very tight-knit group of players who all work hard for each other. They make their tackles and they make it very difficult for teams to beat them.
They went up to Doncaster last weekend and turned them over. They played the wind better in the first half than Donny did after the break. They got the 22 points on the board and Doncaster couldn’t get it back.
You’ve got to give Richmond credit – that’s not an easy place to go and win.”
With four Championship matches remaining – the final three all against the league’s highest placed teams – Hartpury are still seeking to capture their best shape and form at this level. Game-plans for Saturday aside, however, Cornwell is coming into this this match fully-focused on work rate, attitude and individual performance.
“The key thing for me this weekend, regardless of how we choose to approach the game tactically, is our mental approach. It wasn’t there last week, so I’m challenging the players around that aspect of our performance and I want to see a reaction.”
Saturday’s fixture, at the Richmond Athletic Ground, kicks off at 3pm. The team will be announced tomorrow.