London Scottish and Hartpury are rarely far apart in the Greene King IPA Championship league table and so it is again this season, with the Exiles just three points and one position above the Red and Blacks.
Both teams have blown hot and cold in this campaign. London Scottish were big winners at Yorkshire Carnegie last time out, but that result was preceded by six consecutive defeats. Hartpury are also on an extended run of losses since late January, despite some encouraging performances against Newcastle and Nottingham in recent weeks.
The most recent result was a deeply underwhelming home defeat to Ampthill, in wretched conditions two weeks ago, when the away team mastered the wet weather better on a night when Hartpury simply failed to get going.
“The performance against Ampthill was very disappointing,” said Director of Rugby, John Barnes.
“The awful weather wasn’t helpful, but our basics let us down. Issues at the set piece meant that Ampthill got the upper hand and kept us chasing the game.”
“In conditions like we had, it was so important to build scores and make the opposition chase the game, but we failed to do that.”
On a more positive note, Hartpury’s recent form against Saturday’s opponents is some cause for optimism. In five Championship meetings since promotion in 2017, Hartpury have won four, the single defeat coming in the corresponding fixture last season.
It was against the Exiles that the Red & Blacks secured the bonus point win that secured Championship survival late in the last campaign, and they repeated the dose when the Scots visited the Alpas four months ago (Pictured: Charlie Powell scoring in that match, courtesy of LNC Images).
“We need a big reaction from the players this week,” said Barnes.
“Scottish had a huge win in their last game, versus Yorkshire Carnegie, and they will be looking to build on that.”
“We beat them with our best performance of the season, back in November, and we need to find that form again soon.”
Hartpury will be hoping that one or two of the recent injury absentees will be available to make a return in this game.
However, the beginning of the BUCS Super Rugby play-offs, starting with a quarter final next Wednesday, does mean that the club will need to consider the priorities very carefully in relation to the student contingent, some of whom have become Championship ‘regulars’ in recent weeks.
The squad will be announced on Friday. Saturday’s game at the Richmond Athletic Ground kicks off at 3pm.