Hartpury will be trying to put last week’s result against Bedford firmly in the rear-view mirror when the squad travel to Jersey on Saturday.
With no new injury concerns, John Barnes and Mark Cornwell have a pretty full hand to choose from when they announce their squad tomorrow, so the main concern will be trying to restore the performance levels seen in earlier matches, which slipped a little last Saturday, particularly in the second half.
“Saturday was disappointing, after we’d gone into the game feeling very confident,” said Barnes.
“For 45 minutes we were ok. We’d made some errors, but once we scored at the start of the second half, playing with the wind, I thought we were in position to pull away.”
“But then straight away, Blues benefitted from what we felt was a poor refereeing decision – followed by our own defensive error – and they were back in lead.”
“That proved to be quite a big momentum shift and from that point onwards the Bedford half-backs were able to control territory very well. In the end, we were left chasing the game and that’s not easy to do at this level.”
“What was equally disappointing was that we didn’t manage to pick up even a bonus point – and we had our chances – but it goes to show that you can’t expect to get anything in the Championship if you only play for 45 minutes.”
“You’ve got to give credit to Bedford. They’d lost at home to Richmond the week before, so they did well to come here and turn it round. We need to do that this weekend.”
As we know, Jersey will be a very solid test of Hartpury’s ambitions for a higher league finish this season.
The Reds opened their campaign with victories over London Scottish and Bedford, before narrowly losing to Doncaster Knights on the road. They then drew with Ampthill at home, before putting another ‘W’ on the record at Richmond last time out. They currently sit third in the Championship table.
We didn’t visit the island last season – in fact our last Championship fixture at the Stade Santander was in 2019, when we squeaked a last-gasp win – although we did lose there in the Cup in 2019-20 and also endured a chastening and emphatic home defeat to the Reds at the end of last season.
“Jersey are very decent side,” said Barnes. “They had a good start and, although they subsequently dropped a few points, they’ll be up there at the end. They always are!”
“They are very well-coached by Harvey Biljon and his team. They’ve got an extremely good drive, if you give them opportunities in the 22, but if you look at their games they are also playing some very good rugby.”
“Ryan Olowafela is an exciting player on the wing for them. They’ve got some good centres and, of course, our former player Sam Leeming at 10. They look a well-rounded team this year and they will be wanting to put in a dominant performance at home.”
“Yes, it’s a challenge for the players – the squad will travel to Jersey and back in a single day – but it’s something that I’m sure they will get their heads around. “
“We go there looking to do a job. It’s a tough task but it’s one that were looking forward to.”