Hartpury RFC will quickly renew their acquaintance with Ulster A this weekend, after their previous British & Irish Cup encounter, last Saturday, ended in defeat to a try scored in the final play.
However, there was some cause for optimism in the result, even though the outcome all but ended Hartpury’s interest in this, the final season of the competition.
“There were definitely some positives there,” said Hartpury coach and former Gloucester Rugby full-back, Jonny Goodridge (pictured).
“Our attack was lot better and we managed to get the four tries,” he said. “We looked to be ambitious and get the ball into the wider channels – it was good to see the likes of Alex Ducker, Ed Coulson and Tom Seabrook all having a go.
The try we conceded right at the end very much summed up the game. From our perspective there were a lot of turnovers and simple errors which let us down – we defended against phase attack quite comfortably but we came unstuck when we made errors in possession and then compounded it by then making the wrong defensive decisions in those specific situations.
It’s frustrating that we’ve created those problems for ourselves, but full credit to Ulster who were very clinical in taking the chances that came their way.”
Goodridge does not think that back-to-back games against the same opponent will have a particular bearing on this week’s match.
“We’re likely to be making a few changes and the Ulster squad could be shaped by the demands of their senior side, so we do not really know what to expect,” he said.
“Having said that, it’s great for the boys to be able to work on some of the things that perhaps didn’t go so well last week and go back out and test themselves against the same opposition. That’s quite exciting.”
With no further university rugby until late January, Hartpury may well choose to elevate a few of the BUCS Super Rugby squad for the trip to Ballymena.
“There’s a few guys from the BUCS squad that have put their hands up through their performances over the past few weeks,” said Goodridge.
“It’s a time of year when we’ve got to manage the squad properly. We have a long trip to Northern Ireland followed by another to Jersey Reds the weekend after. This week will be a good opportunity for a few guys who have been on the fringe of the squad, or going well in student rugby, to show what they can bring.
Training has been hampered a bit by the weather, but we had a really good session this morning and you can sense the excitement coming from the guys who are in contention for Saturday.”
Saturday’s loss was Hartpury’s fifth in as many games, but Goodridge says that morale among the players is still high.
“We always knew that, if we weren’t fully at our best – week in, week out – there were going to be some difficult games at this level,” he said.
“Against a very strong Ealing we did show, for a large part of the match, just how good we can be in both defence and attack.
The mood in the camp is still really positive. Given the step up that we have made, it’s not a massive surprise that we have hit a patch like this, but we’ll come through it and show what we’re made of.
You can’t expect to win 30 out of 30 every season. We’re learning a lot about the squad and the good news is that everybody is striving to get better and better.
We will turn the corner and we’ve got to focus on putting in a performance this weekend that will help us build into the two massive Championship games that we have coming up.”
Saturdays match against Ulster A is at Eaton Park, home of the famous Ballymena RFC, and will kick off at 2.30pm.