On a wet night in the East Midlands, Hartpury will rue giving up an early advantage yet, at the same time, feel happy to have taken two bonus points with a pair of late tries.
Hartpury started the game impressively, playing expansively and stretching the home defence before a penalty gave Bragman an early chance. Surprisingly, the normally consistent kicker pushed his effort wide.
The visitors took that in their stride and were ahead moments later with an individual effort from full-back George Simpson. Kicking from deep, his chase was outstanding and when Nottingham’s Sean Scanlon dithered over his clearance, Simpson was there to charge down and score.
Hartpury thought they were in again when an excellent break by Jake Morris made good ground, but what would have been a scoring pass was judged forward.
Again, Hartpury shook off the disappointment and doubled their lead early in the second quarter.
Simon Linsell drove impressively off the back of a lineout before Morris carried the move forward. From the breakdown, a beautifully looped pass from Bragman gave winger Sam Goatley (pictured, courtesy LNC Images) the chance to get outside his marker and in at the corner. Bragman’s conversion was a beauty.
The visitors continued to look sharp, but were undone just before the half-hour when a powerful surge through the middle by Nottingham Number 8, Josh Poullett, put the try on a plate for replacement scrum half Alex Dolly.
O’Leary’s apparently simple conversion struck a post, but Nottingham had all but cleared the deficit by half time.
A penalty was belted deep into the Hartpury 22 and the Nottingham forward pack did the rest, with prop Oisin Heffernan getting final touch. This time O’Leary made no mistake, to make it 12-14 at the break, although not before another strong Hartpury attack had ended with a fumble.
If Hartpury had dominated the opening stages, the third quarter belonged firmly to the home team.
O’Leary again hit the post, with a penalty, but after Hartpury cleared, a powerful line-out drive resulted in a penalty try and the lead for Nottingham.
They increased their advantage in the 55th minute when, eventually finding the kind of attacking form they are renowned for, some incisive running created the opportunity for Scanlon to finish a good try.
Hartpury continued to battle well, but were opened up again ten minutes later. More good hands from Nottingham finished with an inside ball from Jack Spittle to fellow-winger David Williams who scored close to the posts.
At 33-14, it seemed as though Hartpury might have just pride to play for. However another long pass from Bragman found Simpson and his well-timed pass gave Goatley the chance to complete another strong finish.
Hartpury pressed hard in the final 10 minutes and got their reward when replacement hooker, Will Tanner finished a line out drive with three minutes to go, the score ensuring that the visitors picked up a deserved two bonus points.
Nottingham: Scanlon (Try 55), Williams (Try 65), Millett, Peters, Spittle, O’Leary (Cons 37, 55, 66) McConnell; Sio, Cole, Heffernan (Try 36) , Jones, Cecil, Uru, Owen, Poullett. Bench: Bownlie, Jack, Garside, Allen, Coughran, Dolly (Try 28), Simonds, Foley. (Also Penalty Try, 53)
Hartpury: Simpson (Try 6), Morris, Smith, Eves, Goatley (Tries 22, 69), Bragman (Cons 6, 23, 70), Carter; Challenger, Crane, Armstrong, Hawkins, Linsell, Graham, Preece, Nagle-Taylor. Bench: Tanner (Try 77), Adkins, Gibson, Fuller, Safe, Preece, Reeves, Cochrane.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth