Hartpury travel to London Irish in the Championship Cup on Sunday, in the knowledge that the team that defeated them in their previous two outings – Cornish Pirates – shipped more than 60 points on their own recent visit to Reading’s Madejski Stadium.
However, the Red & Blacks will come into the game buoyed by a much-improved performance in the last fixture versus the Cornishmen, in which only a well-taken try from the final play of the game denied them a full share of the points.
“I thought that game was a big improvement over the past three or four weeks,” said Head coach, Mark Cornwell.
“To score four tries was pleasing, as was the fact that we competed for most of the 80 minutes. We let the game go away from us in a brief spell just before half-time and, right at the end, they kept the ball for twenty phases to score the winning try. Fair play to Pirates for being able to do that.”
There were some good individual performances on the day and, despite one costly error – an over-cooked penalty kick which led, indirectly, to a Pirates score – Cornwell was impressed by the display of on-loan Worcester Warriors outside-half, Luke Scully.
“He’s a confident, maturing ‘10’ who organises very well,” he said.
“He understands the game that we want to play and he’s got the skills and the temperament to be able to execute. Yes, he’s very young, but what he gives us as a positive is enough for us to be able to live with the occasional misjudgement. He’ll learn from that and move on.”
Hartpury only gave up five penalties in the Pirates match, which might look like a disciplinary triumph, but Cornwell points to the tackle law experiment being run during the Championship Cup competition as a key contributor.
“In the previous week, the referee hardly took his whistle out of his mouth and yet in the most recent game there was barely anything,” he said.
“We appreciate the need for the review, but individuals are refereeing the new trial law completely differently to one another. I think we’ll all be glad when we get back to normal.”
Looking ahead, Cornwell has few doubts regarding the size of the task against last season’s Premiership team.
“We know what they’re all about. They’ve got a large squad of very good, experienced players and they are top of the league for a reason.”
“However, we can take plenty of positives from the last time that we faced them. We were competitive around the set-piece – with the proviso that we’ve got to be better against their line-out drive, as they picked up a couple of tries that way.”
“We were strong at the scrum, which is an area in which they’ve destroyed a lot of teams this season, so that is a good sign.”
“We’ve spent a lot of time watching the way in which they took the Pirates apart, three weeks ago, and the boys know that they really need to step up for this match. Otherwise it could be a long day at the office.”
“Right now we’re more focused on how we are going to play and what we are going to do with the ball when we get it. We’re hoping to have a couple more back from injury for this one.”
Hartpury will name their team later today. Sunday’s match kicks off at 3pm.