Yorkshire Carnegie 22 – Hartpury RFC 21

Hartpury concluded their Championship campaign with another close encounter against Yorkshire Carnegie.

The visitors had scored two second half tries – through Akapusi Qera and Championship debutant Toby Venner – to take a narrow lead with ten minutes to go.

However, after a string of penalties culminating in a yellow card for centre Luke Eves, Chris Elder went for the posts to edge the result for Yorkshire.

Having secured their championship Survival with last week’s win over London Scottish, the Red & Blacks were keen to finish the campaign on a high and were looking for their sixth win in eight matches.

The team was relatively settled. Harry Cochrane was restored to the number 9 jersey but otherwise the back division was unchanged from last week’s win over London Scottish.

Jake Armstrong started at tight-head, whilst Ian Grieve was another swap the bench for a starting berth, at number 8.  Tom Dodd was selected on the open side to complete a back row that also included Fijian legend, Qera.

The game, played at Leeds’ Emerald Headingley Stadium, began well for Hartpury.  They largely dominated the opening 15 minutes and kept the hosts in their own half.

The northern weather included plenty of wind and rain, which made handling difficult for both sides and, because of this, the game got off to a generally slow and scrappy start.

It was Yorkshire who scored the first points of the game when Matt Smith crashed over on 22 minutes.

They had gained field position through several penalties resulting from Hartpury’s lack of discipline and it was Smith who gathered the ball from a tapped penalty and got between two defenders to slide over.

Chris Elder converted easily from in front of the posts and it wasn’t long before Yorkshire were extending their advantage.

Miles Thoroughgood spotted a gap in Hartpury’s defence to canter in for another converted try.

With half-time approaching, however, Hartpury hit back.

They were first to get hands on a loose ball and Steve Leonard’s good footwork took him through the Carnegie defence (pictured).  His pass allowed Luke Stratford the chance to finish strongly, for a try converted by Sam Leeming.

The second half began perfectly for the hosts, as Dan Temm was gifted a simple try from the restart, collecting the ball and scoring straight from the kick.

But Hartpury worked hard to restore their foothold in the match and closed the gap, twenty minutes later, through Akapusi Qera, finishing a lineout drive.

With 10 minutes remaining, replacement scrum-half Toby Venner, a double BUCS Super Rugby winner in university rugby, flat-footed the defence with a dummy before finishing powerfully in the corner on his championship debut.

Leeming again converted to edge Hartpury into the lead, 19-21, and in sight of their sixth win in eight matches.

However, the hosts responded and laid siege to the Hartpury line in search of both the win and the try bonus point.  Eventually, in the face of strong defence, they had to settle for a Chris Elder penalty kick, which was enough to secure the four points, leaving the visitors with a solitary bonus point.

Hartpury returned to Gloucester with their heads held high, after a strong final performance against a club that had been in exceptional form since December.

The main objective – that of Championship survival – had been accomplished with a week to spare and the management will now seek to assemble a squad for 2019-20 that will be strong enough to keep themselves clear of trouble.

Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder (Cons 22, 29, Pen 72), Thoroughgood (Try 29), Niko, Forsyth, Watkins, Lucock, Bruzulier; Foster, Donnellean, Mitchell, Lemalu, Smith (Try 22), Mayhew, Bainbridge, Temm (Try 41). Bench: Newborn, Cade, Frost, Ward, Wolstenhome, Bullough, Louis Brown

Hartpury: Wilcox, Foley, Leonard, Eves, Henry, Leeming (Cons 36, 58, 69), Cochrane; Murphy, Stratford (Try 36), Armstrong, Craig, Linsell, Qera (Try 58), Dodd, Grieve.  Bench: Tanner, Merrey, Flook, Quinn, Langley, Venner (Try, 69)

Referee: Andrew Jackson

Attendance: 970

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