Thanks to Steven Impey and the Gloucester Citizen for this week’s match report
Hartpury stormed to a 10-try victory over Hull Ionians on Saturday, securing second place and their highest ranking in the National leagues to give departing director of rugby Alan Martinovic the perfect send-off.
The Bristol-bound talent spotter has paid an emotional tribute to the college where, for the past seven seasons, he has shared riches of success both in the BUCS and senior mens rugby folds.
“There has been a few moments today when it has hit home that it will be my last game but I am obviously delighted for the boys to finish the season on a high note,” Martinovic said afterwards.
“To finish second in this league is a remarkable achievement and, of course, we were for a long time contenders to go up to the Championship.
“You can look at results in terms of wins and losses and so forth, but I think those boys will generate a huge amount of self-belief and confidence from this season.
“Probably up until this point, we were glad to be here (in National One) and, while we had been a competitive team in the league last season, we were not quite up there challenging for promotion.
“Are we a better team than we were last season? Are they better players? I think the answer is yes on both accounts and that’s the thing that matters in the end.”
This season, Hartpury were by far the most fearless team on the semi-professional circuit.
They have run when others would kick – demonstrated by their try-conversion rate – and, despite owning the imperious boot of Gareth Thompson – who nailed 21 points including a try against Hull – invention has trumped pragmatism almost every time.
They went close to breaching the 1,000-point mark this term after their dominant display this week. Perhaps that is their only downfall, having gone close but not quite close enough in those tight defeats that were the difference between themselves and champions Richmond.
In their epic defeat at home to the capital club a fortnight ago, they showed resilience and determination; a fight that certainly puts them on a level playing ground in terms of talent.
Next season, Hartpury will require a little bit more composure to take victory when the moments count on the tight occasions. Nonetheless, their time will come.
It was a similar sight that led to Hartpury’s first try on Saturday afternoon. Hull full-back Gregory Lound had intercepted Dan Thomas’ pass well before clearing the decks.
But, as has been the case for many months now since his conversion from the pack, the pill landed down the throat of Lithuanian wing Jonas Mikalcius, who burst past two players to lay up Thomas for an easy run in.
And the Welshman was over again in a blink of the eye as the Hartpury pack secured a penalty line-out on the Hull 22 before driving Thomas to the try-line in tow.
Mikalcius latched onto a draw and pass from Steve Leonard on the left flank to continue the onslaught and was in amongst the action again with his second shortly after a score from tighthead Alex Clarey, whose try led directly from a yellow card for a dangerous tackle by Hull’s flanker Laurence Cowen.
Leonard was soon burning down Mikalcius’ flank for Hartpury’s sixth although didn’t dare complete a somersault as Mikalcius cheekily did for his second touchdown moments earlier.
Hartpury were having a field day during 80 minutes of sun, wind and rain that acted more erratically than a season of surprise showings this term – none more so than the gigantic leaps Hartpury have taken since their fifth-place finish last year.
Hull lock Joseph Makin crashed over from short range to lift the visitors off the mark on the stroke of half-time.
And, despite second-half scores from wing Aquile Smith and full-back Lound, the damage was too devastating to clear up in a day, as Mikalcius, George Boulton, Thompson and finally Luke Eves completed the rout to end an enthralling season at the college.
Hartpury College: J Forrester, G Boulton, S Leonard, L Eves (capt), J Mikalcius, G Thompson, H Cochrane, M Flook, W Tanner,A Clarey, J Voss, J Dancer, J Polledri, D Thomas, G Evans
Replacements: N Taylor, J Spencer, B Chan, R Oakley, J Perry
Tries: D Thomas 2, J Mikalcius 3, A Clarey, S Leonard, G Boulton, G Thompson, L Eves
Cons: G Thompson 9
Hull Ionians: G Lound, S Slingsby, L Thundercliffe, C Lound , A Smith, B Smith, I Green, D Laverick, Thomson, Stout, Makin, Sanders, Maud, Cowen, Falkingham
Replacements: S Johnson, A Johnson, H Newborn, A Thomas, J Colborne
Tries: J Makin, A Smith, G Lound
Cons: G Lound 3
Referee: V Boscawen