Hartpury scored first and last in this game, but in between it was largely a tale of woe for Mark Cornwell’s side, as they struggled to make the most of ideal conditions at the Richmond Athletic Ground.
Richmond played well and took the chances that were on offer to pick up their first bonus point win of the season but – in what has been traditionally a tight encounter – they must have been surprised at how comfortable their afternoon was.
The sun was shining brightly on a dry, firm and well-grassed surface, with very little wind to bother either side. Hartpury were largely unchanged from the side that had worked so hard to beat Coventry the week before. Joe Quinn, in for the injured skipper Simon Linsell, the only new name in the starting fifteen.
Quinn, unfortunately, was to play very little part in the game. He left the field with a nasty cut after a blow to the head in the opening two minutes and was replaced by last season’s university skipper, Tom Pashley.
That setback apart, there was very little in the opening passages of the game to indicate what was to come later in the afternoon.
Hartpury started perhaps the brighter of the two teams and the opening 10 minutes were every bit as competitive as had been expected.
They had their noses in front after 12 minutes, when a penalty kicked to the corner provided the platform for the line-out drive. Richmond defended it well but, after the ball had moved infield via a series of ‘pick and goes’, it was their former prop-forward, Rupert Harden (pictured), who drove over to open the scoring.
The lead was not to last long. There appeared to be little danger as the visitors secured line-out ball in their own 22 but, not for the last time in the game, they failed to look after it. As it squirted loose it was Richmond who were quicker to react and, as the ball was moved wider, there was plenty of space for centre Cam Hudson to stroll through and score.
The game continued to stay largely even, although Richmond, prompted by their excellent scrum-half Luc Jones, were beginning to make line breaks whereas Hartpury, toothless in attack, appeared to be quickly running out of ideas.
On the occasions that they did get the chance to launch their bigger carriers, the ball was frequently lost in contact.
Fragility was also creeping into the defensive effort and it was no great surprise when Richmond went in front. It was as simple as a missed tackle off first phase and Rob Kirby strolled in to score.
Ten minutes later the Hartpury rear-guard was wide open again, when winger Jono Woodward opened his account after some good off-loading by his team-mates.
19-7 down at the break, was a far from irretrievable situation for the Red & Blacks, although it was clear that they needed to come out firing after the interval.
Instead – in what is becoming a pattern this season – they made the worst possible start. Richmond kicked off and Hartpury fumbled. The home side re-gathered and when the ball was moved wide right, Woodward was there again for his second try in a matter of minutes.
The game was effectively over as a contest when, with Hartpury continuing to make mistakes, Ed Milne was able to touch down in a powerful Richmond drive in the 47th minute, Kirby’s conversion making it 33-7.
Hartpury lost their second player to a head injury when fly half, Luke Cozens, joined Quinn on the sidelines, giving former BUCS lynch-pin, Sam Leeming, his first chance at this level.
Hartpury did threaten late on, when they had a spell of possession in the Richmond red-zone, but it was typical of their day when they were again robbed of the ball, after claiming an attacking line-out, and Richmond went through a number of phases before lock forward Chris Davies scored at the other end.
It was little consolation when, with four minutes remaining, Jake Henry’s good run on the left wing provided a simple finish for the supporting Iain Grieve.
This was a sobering experience for Hartpury who, following other results this weekend, now find themselves in the bottom two. Things get no easier next Saturday, when second in the league Ealing Trailfinders – conquerors of previously unbeaten Cornish Pirates this weekend – are the visitors to the Gillman’s Ground.
Richmond: Kirby (Try 25, Cons 15, 35, 42, 48), Woodward (Tries 34, 41), Hudson (Try 14), McLean-Dents, Simpson-Hefft, Damant, Jones; Goodrick-Clark, Grimstone, Trenier, Warden, Davies (Try 70), Parker, Liston, Milne (Try 47). Bench: Phipps, Cunnew, Spelman, Lenygon, Boyce, Dennett, Edgerley.
Hartpury: Wilcox, Muric, Eves, Forrester, Foley, Cozens (Con 13), Bolt; Murphy, Tanner, Harden (Try 12), Quinn, Fuller, Langley, Gilbert, Grieve (Try 76). Bench: Stratford, Flook, Morris, Pashley, Stephenson, Leeming, Henry.
Referee: Hamish Smailes