Three weeks ago Hartpury were agonisingly close to collecting an against-the-odds bonus point win at the home of highly rated Bedford Blues. Only a late Blues try, scored from an attacking lineout when Hartpury had failed to clear their lines effectively – and a missed penalty kick in the dying seconds – conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Hartpury get the chance to ‘go again’ at Goldington Road on Friday night, when they visit The Blues in Round 2 of the new Championship Cup competition.
Senior player Dan Murphy (pictured) – currently carrying an injury picked up ahead of last week’s home fixture with London Irish – is part of the coaching team for the Championship Cup ‘block’ of fixtures and he feels that the experience of that last visit will have nothing but benefits for the Red & Blacks.
“We’ll take a huge number of positives from the league match at Bedford,” he said. “We know how good a side they are and the fact is that it was a game that we could, and probably should, have won.”
“The pack went well. We were really happy with our set-piece and, for a lot of the game, with our defence.”
“This week is all about us building on that – trying to ensure that we stay good in those key areas but also adding an extra attacking element. Hopefully the weather will be a lot better than the last time we were there, which will give us a chance to show what we can do.”
“We managed four tries in the match last time, so we feel that there is definitely something to develop on.”
Murphy was also far from unhappy with the team’s contribution against London Irish in last weekend’s Cup opener, despite a 7-35 home defeat.
“The final scoreline didn’t really represent the overall performance,” he said.
“Our defensive effort was actually pretty good and I felt that we felt that we dealt with the new tackle law (being trialled in the Championship Cup) well.”
“We had rotated quite a bit and were up against a ‘fully-loaded’ Irish side.”
Hartpury have been handed a tough draw in the inaugural divisional Cup competition, thrown into a ‘local’ pool with Bedford, London Irish and Cornish Pirates – all teams that would harbour thoughts of winning the trophy, as well as being in the promotion mix come the end of the season.
However, the six-week run of fixtures does have its benefits.
“It’s a great chance to give opportunities to some of the younger boys,” said Murphy.
“It’s what Hartpury is all about, after all – making that sort of progression available to young players. Look at last week – we were able to start with Harry Wilson, our university Number 8, and he ended up being our man of the match against a side containing experienced international players.”
“We’ll also get a chance to rest up one or two players who are carrying niggles or who have played a lot of rugby already this season.”
Hartpury’s team will not be announced until Friday, but it is likely to retain the same youthful feel as that which fronted up to the Exiles.
Gloucester have both Premiership and ‘Shield’ (A League) fixtures this weekend, so Hartpury can expect little assistance from that quarter, meaning that some juggling of the squad will need to be done, with a BUCS Super Rugby fixture having been played just 48 hours before the Bedford kick off time of 7.45pm.