Hartpury College 30 – Leeds Beckett University 23
Hartpury maintained their unbeaten start to the BUCS Super Rugby campaign, but not before being given a huge scare by the visitors from Yorkshire.
On a grey and chilly afternoon, there was plenty about this game to keep spectators warm as Beckett raced into a deserved half-time lead before being hauled back by a much improved second period from the home side.
Hartpury started with a typically enterprising approach, but this was one of those days when errors were all too frequent and prevented the hosts from building any sustained level of pressure. Beckett were far more pragmatic, playing to their strengths, which included early dominance at the scrum.
Indeed, it was a ball taken against the feed that allowed them to open the scoring after seven minutes. James Elliott was the scorer after the visitors had run the ball well against a hastily scrambled Hartpury defence.
Still spluttering, Hartpury did put a nice move together before the quarter hour mark and it was skipper Sebastian Negri who made the telling contribution with a pacy 20-metre burst before his well-timed pass gave winger Rhys Tudor the chance to run in at the corner (pictured).
Sam Leeming, who had a frustrating day with the boot, missed the extras and Negri himself was in trouble shortly afterwards, seeing yellow for an adjudged high tackle and giving Beckett’s Dave McIlwane the chance to slot a straightforward kick for 5-10.
McIlwane landed a longer shot as Negri returned and Beckett’s ascendancy was confirmed shortly before the break when prop Rory Mason bundled over between the posts, to leave an easy conversion for 5-20.
Leeming’s penalty with the last kick of the half did little to restore confidence within the home support, but whatever was said in the dressing room clearly had some impact, as Hartpury were a different proposition on their return.
The introduction, following injury, of live-wire scrum half Harry Cochrane had a lot to do with Hartpury’s increase in tempo although, in knocking on the re-start, Beckett did little to help themselves. Sensing blood, Hartpury poured forward with greater accuracy and purpose, which gave Negri the chance to power over for a captain’s try.
Ten minutes later and the scores were level. Another good passage of play, which featured some outstanding handling and support lines, gave full-back Maliq Holden the chance to run into space on the left and his pass allowed flanker Harry Wilson to smash over in the corner, much to the enjoyment of his Gloucester Academy colleagues in the grandstand.
Dominant at the line-out, Hartpury were eventually sorting their scrum out and, with the set piece no longer a source of concern, the third quarter was pretty much one-way traffic. Another period of pressure saw mobile prop forward Craig Bachurlewski involved more than once and it was fitting reward when he stretched out for the bonus point try just before the hour.
Ahead for the first time in the match, Hartpury could not sit back on a five-point lead and three minutes later they struck again. More good approach play again saw Holden in clear air on the left, and this time he had the space and the time to finish the move.
Leeming’s indifferent day from the kicking tee was keeping Beckett in the game at this point and the visitors did mount a late rally. McIlwain landed another good penalty to put them within a score, but that was all they could manage against Hartpury’s aggressive and well-organised defence.
Hartpury’s BUCS Head Coach, Sean Lynn, had mixed feelings at the final whistle. “The performance levels in the first half were nowhere near where we need them to be, which was a worry, and all credit to Leeds Beckett who were able to take full advantage.”
“I was pleased with the improvement in the second half. We were still far from perfect and there are definitely things that we need to keep working on, but the attitude was good and, although we probably left a few points out there, I thought that we were able to finish some of our chances exceptionally well.”
“We’ve got a tough trip to Exeter next week, so we’re going to need to iron out one or two things before then.”
Hartpury: Holden (Try 62), Tudor (Try 14), Cooke, Forrester, Neal, Leeming (Con 42, Pen 40), Cox; Barron, Stratford, Bachurlewski (Try 59), Harper, Negri (try 42), Wilson (Try 51), Agnew, Morris. Replacements: Mullis, Wrafter, Hill, Bowden, Pashley, Cochrane, Allsopp.
Leeds Beckett; Brown, Vennables, Bullough, Dunne, Marshall, McIlwane (Cons 7, 37; Pens 19, 27, 75), Elliott (Try 7); Cade, New born, Mason (Try 37), Preston-Routledge, Borrowdale, Longson, Barnard, Cartwright. Replacements: Valentine, Sheldon, Dodds, Paynter, Raymond, Glynn, Williams.