Hartpury RFC will need to be at the very top of their game, when a powerful Yorkshire Carnegie side visit the Gillman’s Ground this Saturday. That’s according to coach Jonny Goodridge, who represented the Leeds-based club in a playing career that also included six seasons with Gloucester Rugby and a spell at Bristol.
“They will bring a lot of physicality – they’re big throughout the team, including the back three,” he said. “They look dangerous in attack so we know that our defence will be tested again this week, particularly in the wide channels.
Defensively, they didn’t concede a try against Doncaster last week, so we also know that we’re going to have to be sharp.”
Carnegie started started the season in somewhat disappointing fashion, going down 28-12 at London Scottish, after having led at the interval. Since then, however, wins at Nottingham and at home against a Doncaster Knights team who are expected to challenge this season, have more than steadied the ship.
“They had a pretty limited pre-season which may account for their opening day loss at London Scottish, but since then they’ve improved massively, “ said Goodridge.
“They were runners-up last season and a Premiership side within relatively recent memory – I’m sure that they will want to be back there again and so this is going to be a huge test for us.
Having said that, it’s just fantastic for us, as a club, to be able to welcome teams like Yorkshire Carnegie to the Gillman’s Ground.”
Hartpury come into the game in good spirits, having picked up their own first victory of the campaign, on the road at Rotherham Titans, last time out. The 32-21 win also saw the Red & Blacks pick up their first try-scoring bonus point of the season.
“It’s great to come into work on Monday morning with a win and and a bonus point, but then we have to review things objectively and let the players know where we need to improve,” Goodridge said. “In many ways it’s easier to be more critical after a win – it’s often easier for the players to take the analysis on board and react to it.
We’re still learning in every match, so it is really good to have that first win under our belt. The performance wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be, but then we’re always going to want improve our performance – we will be learning week on week, in every game.”
Tries from Harry Randall, Elias Caven, Harry Cochrane and prop Tom Heard sealed the result in South Yorkshire. Was this an indicator that Hartpury are settling in a Championship level?
“We can be pleased with a lot of things,” Goodridge told us. “Our defence has stepped up well so far, as has our set piece.
We were happy to get the bonus point on Saturday and, just as importantly, to make sure that Rotherham got nothing from the game. Even at the end of the match, when we had the five points locked up, we kept them out for 25 or 30 phases just to make sure that they didn’t get to within seven points.
The season so far has been a steep learning curve. The recruitment over the summer went well and the guys who have come in have really added to what we already had, but there have still been a number of challenges.”
Goodridge himself is loving life back in Gloucestershire, where he coaches with Hartpury’s elite Under-18 squad as well as with the’big boys’.
“I love the development side of working with the younger players but now I’ve got a complete contrast with the RFC. I get to coach Rhys Oakley – someone who I played with at Leeds – around the same age as me and a former international, and the same day I can be coaching a 16-year old just starting out on their career. It’s a really great mix of experience.”
Goodridge spent three valuable years as Director of Rugby at Christ’s College, Brecon, after his playing career finished.
“Brecon was brilliant for me as a learning curve and as Director of Rugby I was involved in everything, from 10-year olds up to boys of 18, but it wasn’t all at an elite level. When you come to Hartpury, you’ve got elite level players from the age of 16, all the way up. Its been an incredible opportunity.”
Saturday’s game at the Gillman’s Ground kicks off at 2.30pm and will be followed by Gloucester-Hartpury WRFC vs Wasps Ladies. One ticket covers both matches.