Hartpury celebrate St Valentine’s Day with a trip to Nottingham for Round 13 of the Greene King IPA Championship season, with the game being played under the lights on Friday evening (7.45pm).
Lady Bay is a ground where the Red & Blacks have yet to record a win, having lost there twice previously. The better of the two efforts came in the 2017-18 season, when, after a rocky opening 30 minutes, the visitors pulled themselves back into the game, via a Luke Eves try just before half time, and scored a further three times after the break to pick up two bonus points from a 3-point defeat.
Conversely, Hartpury have won in all three home games versus the East Midlanders, most recently in a rain-affected match back in October, when Josh Bragman’s boot (pictured, courtesy of LNC Images) secured a workmanlike 12-6 win.
The Green and Whites have won both of last their last two Championship matches, results which have seen them leapfrog Hartpury in the league table. Both wins have come on the road, with bottom club Yorkshire Carnegie being dispatched before a good result at inconsistent London Scottish last weekend.
Prior to that, there was no disgrace in narrow home losses to both Newcastle and Ealing.
“Nottingham are in pretty decent form,” said Hartpury Director of Rugby, John Barnes. “Certainly they will be a tough test on a cold Friday night at Lady Bay.”
“They will be expected to win at home. However, we’ll probably be picking from the same sort of player group that did well against the Falcons, so we can go there in the hope of maybe causing an upset.”
Hartpury are on a run of two defeats – to the league’s two leading teams – since the home win over Coventry, although Saturday’s performance against league-leaders Falcons was a marked improvement over previous week’s display at Trailfinders.
With Carnegie seemingly anchored at the foot of the table and still yet to register more than a single bonus point in their 12 matches so far, Hartpury should not have to worry about their Championship status this season, but they will see games such as the visit to Nottingham – and the subsequent fixtures versus Ampthill, Scottish and Carnegie – as opportunities to pick up points and stay in touch with the mid-table pack.
“We’re coming into this fixture on the back of a decent performance against Newcastle,” said Barnes.
“We competed well and if we’d taken our chances earlier in the match we could have made it a much closer score-line.”
“As you would expect, they were very clinical in taking their own opportunities and, even though we had plenty of the ball, their defence was extremely strong and they were always just far enough ahead to be comfortable.”
Hartpury will name the squad to travel to Nottingham at noon on Thursday.