Hartpury Director of Rugby, John Barnes, is keen for his side to maintain the performance levels set in last Saturday’s win over Coventry, when they travel north to Hull Ionians this weekend.
“Last week was very pleasing”, he said. “We’d had two indifferent performances after the Christmas break, so on Saturday there was a big focus for us to get back to the way we had been playing earlier in the season.”
“Coventry presented a real challenge, particularly in the first half. To score just before half time, when we were down to 14 men, was one of the key turning points in the game. After the break, we were clearly very clinical in finishing the chances that came our way.”
The 50-19 victory, combined with results elsewhere in the league, mean that Hartpury are now 27 clear of the chasing pack with 11 matches to play. Remarkably, their points difference in the 19 fixtures played to date has now reached 600, an average winning margin of more than 30 points per game.
This weekend’s opponents currently lie 14th in National One, five points ahead of Blaydon and 12 clear of bottom club Macclesfield. Normally, this would be one of the relegation places, but the recent demise of Championship side London Welsh means that it is likely only two clubs will be relegated this season.
Even so, Ionians will need to fight for every point to ensure their survival at this level for a third successive season.
“It will be a difficult game up at Hull, who’ve performed reasonably well at home this season. It remains to be seen if the removal of one of the relegation places will ease the pressure on them a little bit”, said Barnes.
Four of Hull’s five wins in this campaign have come at home, where they have also suffered agonisingly narrow defeats to ‘power’ teams Moseley, Blackheath and Plymouth.
Most recently, they came close again to Blackheath, this time in south-east London, when only a late score for the hosts stopped them taking all five points, 31-29 being the final score.
Hartpury will also remember that they lost the corresponding match on the opening day of last season – the only previous time these two clubs have met in Yorkshire – when, despite securing a bonus point before the interval, a calamitous second half saw them go down 37-32.
Ben Vellacott is unavailable to Hartpury this weekend, although England Under-20 scrum half, Harry Randall (pictured), is likely to play before going away on international duty. Otherwise, there are no new injury concerns for the Gloucestershire outfit.