Hartpury RFC Director of Rugby John Barnes is expecting another tough test as Blaydon, one of National One’s bottom sides, travel to Hartpury this weekend.
Having overcome 14th place Hull Ionians last time out, the RFC face another of the league’s relegation-threatened sides but Barnes is wary of the threat Blaydon pose following their win over Blackheath last weekend.
Barnes said: “Blaydon aren’t too dissimilar to Hull in terms of their strengths and despite being towards the bottom of the league they’re on a good run and have played some good rugby over the last few weeks beating Macclesfield and pushing Loughborough all the way at their place. We certainly aren’t going to underestimate them.
Despite sitting in 15th place in the league and 70 points behind Hartpury, Blaydon make the long trip south on the back of wins over fifth-placed Blackheath and Macclesfield and Barnes is well aware of the threat that the Gateshead side pose.
“We try as much as we can to ignore league positions. We know that Blaydon will pose a different threat to a lot of teams in the league as they’re very strong in the scrum and have a powerful driving line-out. They’ve got some big boys in their side as well and they’ll definitely come at us.
“At this time of year it’s always tough to play the sides who are fighting to avoid getting relegated and with only two teams looking likely to go down this year, Blaydon have got a real chance of getting above Hull and possibly even Fylde, especially with the run they’re on. I think they’ll be looking to see what they can do here and it could be a lot tighter game than people expect on paper, especially if the conditions are poor.”
Hartpury currently sit 27 points clear at the summit of National One having taken a possible 99 points from 100 following a 20-game winning streak.
“The mood in the dressing room is good, understandably given we’ve won 20 games on the bounce but it’s now about making sure players are motivated week in week out but it’s a challenge every week and this one will be another one,” Barnes said.
“We understand that we’re a long way clear at the top but for us it’s only about winning the next game and seeing what other teams do after that. We can only beat what’s in front of us and the boys have done that really well this season. Until we’ve secured promotion that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Barnes looks likely to be able to call upon the same squad which travelled to Hull last weekend, although they will be without scrum-half Harry Randall who is with England Under-20s ahead of their six nations game against France.