Preview Week 28: Hartpury RFC v Richmond

The National League 1 title could be decided on Saturday if Richmond were to come to Hartpury and beat the only side with even a faint chance of overhauling them.

Failing that, Richmond will still be crowned if they take six points or more from their remaining three games, which also include home fixtures against Rosslyn Park and Plymouth.

This week’s visitors have clearly had a fine season, with just three defeats and two draws to set against their 22 wins so far. Apart from playing some good rugby, they have been able to ‘scrap’ for results when necessary – four of the wins have come by one or two points and there have been some other narrow scrapes along the way.

Hartpury will be encouraged by their showing against the leaders earlier in the season. A bonus point 27-21 win in London, Richmond’s only home defeat so far, was certainly one of the college’s stand-out performances as they combined some excellent attacking play with a strong, disciplined defensive effort.

Hartpury will be much changed from that day but should be able to field a side similar to the one that worked so hard to beat Rosslyn Park last week.  The return of three players from England Students duty will increase the options, but there may be an inclination to stick with the group that has scored 70 points in the last two outings.

Whatever the outcome on Saturday, Hartpury will be determined the achieve the best possible finish – the two other matches involve a trip to Plymouth and a final day fixture at home to Ionians.  Having lost to both of these teams in the reverse fixtures there will be an extra incentive, but the greatest motivation will be to attain our highest ever league finish.

Last season, our first in National 1, we finished fifth and maintained the remarkable record of finishing higher in every single season since we entered the pyramid in 2004. A win on Saturday would go some way to ensuring that record is maintained.

On the other hand, if Hartpury do slip up this weekend they may find themselves out of second spot. In-form Ampthill have a winnable home fixture versus Fylde while Blackheath are also at home to Coventry.

Matters at the foot of the table could also be resolved this weekend.  Wharfedale simply have to beat Ionians at home to have any chance of survival while Cinderford will also join Henley en route to National 2 if they do not win at Rosslyn Park. Tough ask.

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