Saturday sees a return to Championship action at the Gillman’s Ground, when London Scottish will be our welcome visitors – weather permitting.
With Storm Emma threatening to dump several of inches of snow on Gloucestershire over the next 12 hours and temperatures barely expected to break freezing, there must be some doubt over whether this game will go ahead as planned.
A decision will be made on Friday.
With only six league games remaining – and four of those at home – Hartpury are relatively confident that they have the points necessary to ensure a further season in English rugby’s second tier.
There are only a handful of points separating the Red & Blacks from Jersey – who currently sit in 6th place in the league – and Hartpury know that a strong finish to the season could see them end up in the respectable comfort of mid-table.
The team feel that they might have had more from their most recent outing at Doncaster, in which they collected five tries in a 48-38 defeat.
“It was a strange game,” said Hartpury Head coach, Mark Cornwell. “Conditions were excellent – they have a good pitch there – and we scored under the posts in the first minute.”
“But then they scored almost straight away and it ended up being a free-for-all. They scored six and we scored five.”
“The frustrating thing was that, despite all the scoring, Doncaster were not really at their best. They were off the pace defensively but we could just not get it together enough to get the win. Then we got the yellow card to Will Safe, and a few other decisions that we were not very happy with, and the game had gone away from us.”
There were positives in the sense that we were able to play some rugby, but we need to be able to put performances together for 80 minutes.”
Hartpury – should the game go ahead – will be in good shape for the Exiles fixture. Scrum half Harry Randall and lock forward Alex Craig, both recent U20 internationals who started the season so well for the club, are back and available for selection.
The only new injury cloud is that returning centre Steve Leonard, who scored with virtually his first touch at Doncaster having missed every fixture since the opener at Bristol, collected a hamstring strain in training yesterday which might put him back on the side-lines for a while.
On-loan London Irish hooker, Darren Dawidiuk could be in line for a start, after Will Tanner collected a knock at the Knights, and Gloucester youngsters Henry Walker and Ciaran Knight are also available to bolster the front-row resources.
Looking ahead to the game, Cornwell is aware that Scottish have the capability to pose a significant threat.
“They are in a very similar situation to us. We are close to each other in the league and, like us, they have had the same issues of being inconsistent and losing out in a few tight games.”
“They can drop in big performances – their high-scoring draw with Bedford comes to mind – and they have definitely got a threat with ball in hand.”
“They will be keen to get one back on us after we snatched a win with a last minute, 90-metre try at their place.”
That try came from full-back Mike Wilcox, after Luke Eves had given Hartpury an early lead. Between those times they had to soak up plenty of Scottish pressure before stealing the win.
Saturday’s game is scheduled to kick off at 2.30pm and the team announcement will be made tomorrow.