Hartpury RFC welcome the Pirates to the Gillman’s Ground on Saturday, knowing that the game represents their last chance to taste success against the Cornishmen in the current season, despite this being their fourth encounter of the campaign.
Twice before the Pirates have raided successfully in Gloucestershire – both occasions in the British & Irish Cup – the second of which was a particularly humbling 41-0 defeat in a re-arranged fixture, after The Mennaye was twice declared unfit due to a waterlogged pitch.
Hartpury also under-performed in the reverse GK IPA Championship fixture at Penzance back in October, when the Pirates were relatively untroubled in collecting a 25-13 victory.
However, the hosts this week will feel that, with many of their absentees now available for selection and with the pressure lifted following last week’s hard-fought home win over London Scottish, this game might represent a good opportunity of registering a first win over their West Country rivals.
The victory over the Exiles which – combined with Rotherham’s agonising defeat at Ealing – made the Red & Blacks mathematically safe from relegation, was a classic case of the outcome being more important than the performance.
“It was a massive result for us,” said Hartpury backs coach, Jonny Goodridge. “It also meant that we had completed the ‘double’ over a side who are very close to us the table, which was a big focus for us before the game.
The conditions did play a big part. We went into the match with the ambition to play an expansive game and we did start off that way, but in the end we just had to concentrate on getting the win, whether it was by three points – as it was – or twenty.
It was nice to have some key guys back from injury. I thought Alex Craig and Harry Randall both did really well considering they had been out for four or five months. Jacob Perry (pictured) was very good, particularly in the second half with his tactical kicking and game management.
Our defence was back to where we want it to be and I also thought that Darrel Dyer and our two wingers dealt very well with the Scottish box-kicking. That will be important again this week, as we know the Pirates have got a very strong kicking game.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, does Goodridge believe that Hartpury being ‘none from three’ against this opposition will have bearing on the game?
“It has been mentioned! They’ve done us over three times – and quite comprehensively – and you can see that the players know that they’ve got to be really clinical in everything they do this week. Pirates are not overly expansive, from what we’ve seen, but they are very good at what they do, with a strong set of forwards.
We think we know what’s coming, so it’s a question of how well we deal with that challenge. It’s something we haven’t managed too well in the previous games, but we believe we’ve got the right plan, a good squad to choose from and some excellent players back from injury. We are going into this game feeling confident.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at the earlier time of 1pm. Later, we are transforming our sports hall – with the addition of a giant screen, an additional bar and plenty of seating – and we hope that spectators will stay to mingle with the players and enjoy England vs Ireland in the NatWest 6 Nations.