After shipping four tries in last weekend’s victory over Ampthill, Hartpury RFC Director of Rugby John Barnes is hoping his side will tighten up ahead the visit of a Cambridge side who put five past them on their own patch.
Barnes was pleased with his side’s 22nd consecutive win of the season as they saw off the challenge of Ampthill, who were second heading into last weekend’s fixture, but has made it clear to his squad that they’ll need to be better in defence this Saturday.
Barnes said: “It was a good win. Obviously it’s important to beat the team who are second in the league and great to score 50 points away from home, but there are still a lot of elements we can work on defensively.
“Since Christmas it’s been a big area for us to work on and we’ve not been good enough. We conceded four tries again and now we’ll spend the next few weeks making sure that we tighten up in defence.
“Cambridge scored five against us away from home earlier in the season so they will definitely come here with an attacking mind set. They’re a team who play rugby and attack you in various different ways, be it with kicks over the top or playing out wide or through the middle. They’re a team who are going to challenge us in defence so it’ll be a good test of the work we’ve put in over the last week.”
Barnes’ side racked up another 51 points in the Ampthill fixture as they took their points tally for the season way past the 1000 mark and, despite the focus on the RFC’s defence, his side still have the fewest points scored against them this season.
“Our defence was very good at the start of the season but that’s when we were having a lot of the ball. Now it seems to be that teams are attacking us more and focusing on getting the four scores for a bonus point so we’ve got to work harder and tighten up to stop that happening.
“You always try to work on the areas where you’re not so good – we looked at our attack in pre-season and we’ve been very effective at translating that from training onto the pitch. Hopefully we can do the same with the defence over the final few games where we’ve got some real challenges coming up.”
Barnes is again expecting to have a strong squad to pick from as his side look to negotiate another hurdle on the way to the National One title and can take heart from the fact his side put 54 points past Cambridge in the reverse fixture. Scorers in that game included Mat Protheroe, Harry Randall, Jonas Mikalcius (2), Jake Polledri and Mat Gilbert (pictured).
Despite being 28 points clear of their nearest challengers, Hartpury do still have work to do in the remaining eight games as they face the likes of Rosslyn Park and Birmingham Moseley away.
Other games this weekend which might have a bearing near the top of the table see Plymouth Albion and Ampthill travel to Loughborough and Esher respectively, while Birmingham Moseley are at home to Darlington Mowden Park. Irrespective of the performance of others, Hartpury will be crowned Champions if they achieve a further 13 league points from their remaining eight fixtures.