Hartpury’s preparations for the 2016-17 season took a step forward on Saturday as they played the first of three warm-up matches ahead of the campaign opener, at home to Blackheath, on September 3rd.
Preston Grasshoppers of National League 2 provided the opposition in an evening kick-off and gave nothing away in a match that will have been of massive benefit to both squads.
The Hartpury line-up was a mixture of old and new, with Mike Wilcox, Harry Agnew, Joe Quinn, Jake Randall (pictured), Victor Pisano and Luca Ercolani all pulling on the shirt for the first time. Mat Gilbert made a welcome return after a few seasons playing at Premiership level, while winger Rhys Tudor was stepping up from last year’s Under 18 group.
The remainder of the match-day 25, led by experienced centre Luke Eves, were players who had taken part in last season’s impressive effort which resulted in second-place in National 1, the club’s highest ever finish.
Hoppers had plenty of possession before half-time and were able to test the Hartpury defence, collecting a score in the process, but four tries to the home side had them well in front at the break. Hartpury largely dominated thereafter although, to their credit, Hoppers did press again towards the end and were rewarded with a second try.
Hartpury looked sharp with the ball in hand and the forwards, after a competitive opening period, had a clear edge in the latter stages. The Hartpury set piece was extremely solid, as it was for most of last season.
The score, for what it’s worth at this stage of the year, was 61-12 at the final whistle. Hartpury now move on to another home fixture, with Clifton RFC, this coming Friday, 19th August (7.45pm) before concluding their preparations with a very tough trip to Ealing Trailfinders.