Mat – all action off the field, as well as on…

Visitors to Hartpury’s first home game of the new season (versus Jersey Reds, this coming Saturday, 2.30pm kick off) will notice some changes to the catering arrangements at the Gillman’s Ground.

‘The Galloping Barista’ is a new venture – serving fresh, high-quality coffee and cake – and is the brainchild of Hartpury RFC back-row forward, Mat Gilbert (pictured).  His new outlet, a converted horse trailer, is situated right alongside the main stand at the ground.

“The original idea came from when I was down at Exeter University last season, commentating on their BUCS semi-final versus Bristol, and there was a little wagon there serving fresh coffee,” said Gilbert.

“There was nothing similar at Hartpury, so I had a chat with (Hartpury Principal) Russell Marchant and he was keen on the idea.”

“Given the level of equine interest at Hartpury and the agricultural history of the College, it seemed that a converted horse trailer would fit in pefectly.”

The conversion is an impressive piece of work and ‘The Galloping Barista’ houses not only not only Mat’s coffee machine, but also display space for a tempting range of home-made cakes and cookies.  It certainly looks like a professional set-up and even more impressive is the fact that Mat did the whole job himself.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time doing my house up and I’ve done quite a bit of DIY in the past so, yes, I’m pretty reasonable doing that sort of work,” Gilbert said.

“It wasn’t too bad – there was some woodwork to do and a little bit of electrical and plumbing and then, of course, the painting.”

“It is going to be pitch-side here every day during the week so we can provide quality coffee most days, but obviously we expect to be busy on Wednesdays for student rugby, for the Ladies’ games and for all the RFC matches.”

“In the future, when circumstances allow, we might start to take it to other events, but for the time being I’m happy to leave it here.  We’re still settling in and making sure that the product is as good as it can be – I’m getting plenty of training from the boys!”

Mat has been an integral part of Hartpury’s pre-season fixtures and was the scorer of our first ever Championship try in last Sunday’s opener at Bristol.  Indeed, he was unlucky not have been awarded a second when he clearly appeared to ground the ball following another powerful line-out drive.

Given his relatively recent background of playing professionally in the Premiership, where does he see the level of Hartpury RFC right now?

“It absolutely has the feel of a fully professional club,” he said.  “At the back of last season, as a senior player group along with the coaches, the main concern that we had was coming up against some of the big, dominant packs in The Championship.”

“However, we’ve proved both in pre-season and against Bristol that, with the squad that we had plus the signings we’ve made, we are not only able to cope but also to assert ourselves.”

“In terms of the team on the pitch we are very confident going ahead into the season and obviously the infrastructure around us – the coaches, the analysts, the physios – is top quality.  The place just goes from strength to strength”.

‘The Galloping Barista’ will be open for business at all Hartpury rugby events this season.  However, it is not the only ‘home-grown’ catering business operating at the club this season – you can find out more about what else is happening ahead of our second home game, against Yorkshire Carnegie, which takes place on September 23rd

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