The Championship season effectively reached the half-way mark last weekend – despite Hartpury’s bye week – as the majority of teams have now played 10 out of 20 league fixtures.
To find Hartpury sitting in mid-table with five wins from their matches so far, a positive points for/against balance and the league’s second highest scorer – James Williams – should be a be a happy situation for the coaching staff as they contemplate a busy Christmas period.
Not that Head Coach, Mark Cornwell, was smiling after the most recent performance, despite a 38-20 home win over Richmond.
“It was a strange game,” he said. “OK, we won and we scored 38 points, but every other stat in that match was against us.”
“We made something like 160 tackles in that game and Richmond made around 60. Everything else was the same – possession, penalty count, error count, you name it and we were second best in it. Yes, of course, I was happy that we got the win and the bonus point, but the performance was a very mixed bag.”
“The last two weeks have largely spent addressing the issues that we saw in that game. The penalty count has been a big issue for us in the past few weeks. Additionally, the error count has been far too high and when you play a very good side – as will this coming Saturday – errors are going to get punished.”
“Since Richmond, we’ve sat the boys down and reminded them that they need to take ownership of certain situations without giving up penalties or committing individual errors.”
“We do a lot of analysis during the week so the players can easily recognise that, even if this result is there, we may not be happy with aspects of the performance.”
Ealing, of course, sit top of the Championship table, although with a relatively slender 3-point margin over their closest challengers, Cornish Pirates, with whom they share an identical record of eight victories and two defeats.
“I’m not sure how happy Ealing will be in their performances over the past few weeks,” said Cornwell.
“They’ve also played Richmond since we did and it’s fair to say that they weren’t at their best – they hardly did anything right in the first half. It was a bit like watching us at times!”
“I’d be surprised if they didn’t look back at a few of their more recent games and feel that they haven’t met the standards that they’ve set for themselves.”
“It’s not a bad time for us to play them. Plus, they’re used to playing on a 3G pitch whereas it could be fairly heavy here on Saturday – certainly a bit different.”
“It’s time for us to believe in ourselves and take another ‘scalp’, which the boys are more than capable of doing. We’ve just got to eradicate the issues that we were talking about earlier.”
“It’s not that long since we beat the Pirates here and that performance has got to give them the belief that they can go out there and do it again on Saturday. If they can get those things right, we can make it a decent contest. On the other hand, if we give up 17 or 18 penalties then it could be a long afternoon.”
With Premiership clubs involved in European competition this weekend and a renewed focus on Covid ‘bubbles’, the club may have to wait until late in the week until the full availability is known.
Co-captain JB Bruzulier looks set to miss another week due a groin problem, but it is an area where Hartpury have some depth currently. Tight-head Jono Benz-Salomon has had surgery on an injured ankle and will miss another 4-6 weeks, while winger Sam Goatley is also carrying a knock.
Hartpury will announce the squad to play Ealing at noon tomorrow.