With two post-Christmas wins collected and injured players on the way back, Hartpury will head south-west in good spirits as they prepare to take on the Cornish Pirates in the final pool game of this season’s British & Irish Cup.
The match will signal the end of Hartpury’s involvement in the competition as, despite last weekend’s handy 41-24 win over a very decent Scarlets Selection, they cannot progress in the competition. Pirates, with three wins out of five played so far, could still go further if results fall their way this weekend.
However, with good performances across the pitch against Scarlets, Hartpury will have plenty to play for in Penzance.
Several players put their hands up in that game and will want to give the coaching team a selection headache ahead of the Championship trip to Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the month. Equally, going into the Headingly fixture on the back of three wins and some improved performances is another important objective.
“We had been narrowly beaten in a few games before Christmas, so it was nice to finally get a couple of good results in,” said Director of Rugby John Barnes.
“Rotherham was an important fixture for us,” he said. “We didn’t play particularly well, apart from a twenty minute spell after half-time, but we got a much needed result.
In the B&I, we were really happy with performance from a young team against Scarlets. We played some good attacking rugby, particularly in the second half when there was a bit more space, and the boys just grew in confidence as the game went on.
Conditions down in Cornwall might be a little bit different, as it sounds as though they’ve had a fair amount of rain, but we’ll still go there with the attitude that we want keep playing and score tries.”
With Championship safety now looking slightly more assured as a result of the Rotherham victory, where does Barnes set his sights over the next few weeks?
“Firstly, we won’t be taking anything for granted until the mathematics say that the job’s done,” he said.
“However, it’s all about performances now and we’ll be going into Saturday’s game looking to improve on what we accomplished last week.
Pirates is a tough place to go – not many teams go and win down there – and we then follow that up with another challenging trip to Yorkshire, who have been going really well of late.”
Hartpury look likely to make a number of changes this week due to the fact that the university team will be back in action in the BUCS Super League shortly, starting with a visit to second-placed Cardiff Met next Wednesday.
“There will be a few senior players coming back in,” said Barnes. “Happily, we’ve also got players like George Boulton and Rob Langley (pictured) who are available for selection again following injuries – both have been training, with contact, for the past couple of weeks and they have come through that very well so far.”
Saturday’s game at the The Mennaye kicks off at 2pm. It will Hartpury’s second visit to Penzance of the season, after they disappointingly lost there in the Championship in November.